A pilonidal cyst is an abnormal area in the skin nearly always located at the tailbone and over the buttocks. Although this disorder is commonly called a cyst because it looks like one, technically the growth does not have the cellular structure of a true cyst. A pilonidal cyst often does not cause problems, but may become infected. An infected pilonidal cyst causes pain and other symptoms, and requires treatment to avoid complications.
Pilonidal cysts are more common in men than in women and typically occur between 15 and 24 years of age, according to the Mayo Clinic. A pilonidal cyst can develop if the individual is born with a thin depression or tract at the tailbone, or if a loose hair penetrates the skin and causes an irritated reaction. These cysts can accumulate more loose hairs, skin debris and dirt over time that lead to infection, particularly if the area is not thoroughly cleaned every day.
Certain risk factors can make the occurrence or infection of a pilonidal cyst more likely. A lifestyle that involves sitting most of the time, obesity, friction on the area from tight clothing, excessive body hair, stiff or coarse body hair, excessive perspiration and poor hygiene all contribute to the occurrence of pilonidal cysts.
An infected pilonidal cyst causes pain in the tailbone area and over the lower spine, sometimes severe. Swelling and reddening of the area also may develop, along with drainage of pus or blood that can have a foul order. The individual may be able to see hair protruding from the cyst.
An infected pilonidal cyst must be treated to avoid complications, which may even lead to skin cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Initial treatment involves a doctor lancing the abscess while the patient is under local anaesthesia. The doctor drains the fluid, and removes hair and other debris. About half of patients do not need further treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic, but surgery is required if the area continues to become infected. The physician also may prescribe antibiotics.
To relieve back pain after pilonidal cyst treatment, soaking in a warm bath may be advised, and the bath may be medicated, according to the University of Michigan Health System. The doctor also may recommend taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen (Advil) to relieve pain.
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