Understanding Pilonidal Cysts: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Pilonidal Cysts


Pilonidal cysts are a relatively common but often misunderstood health issue. These cysts can be painful and even debilitating if left untreated. In this comprehensive article, we will explore what pilonidal cysts are, their causes and symptoms, and the various treatment options available.

What Are Pilonidal Cysts?

A pilonidal cyst is a pocket-like structure that forms under the skin, usually near the tailbone at the top of the buttocks. This cyst is often filled with hair, skin debris, and other matter, and it can become infected, leading to a condition called pilonidal disease. Pilonidal cysts are more common in men than women and typically affect younger individuals, often in their teens or twenties.

Causes of Pilonidal Cysts

The exact cause of pilonidal cysts is not fully understood, but several factors are believed to contribute to their development:

Hair Entrapment

One prevailing theory is that ingrown hairs penetrate the skin, causing inflammation and infection. The friction in the sacrococcygeal region can lead to hair becoming embedded in the skin.

Congenital Factors

Some people may have a predisposition to pilonidal cysts due to genetic or congenital factors. These individuals may have structural abnormalities in the area that make them more susceptible.

Lifestyle and Hygiene

Poor personal hygiene and activities that involve prolonged sitting or friction in the tailbone area, such as cycling, may increase the risk of developing pilonidal cysts.

Symptoms of Pilonidal Cysts

Pilonidal cysts often begin as a painless, small dimple or pit on the skin near the tailbone. As they become inflamed or infected, they can cause various symptoms, including:


mild to severe pain in the lower back, near the tailbone, and in the surrounding area.

Redness and Swelling

The area around the cyst may become red, swollen, and warm to the touch.


Pilonidal cysts can develop abscesses, leading to the formation of a pus-filled bump that may drain foul-smelling fluid.


In cases of infection, individuals may experience fever and general malaise.

Discomfort Sitting or Walking

As the cyst grows or becomes more painful, sitting and walking can become uncomfortable.

Treatment Options for Pilonidal Cysts

The treatment for pilonidal cysts can vary depending on the severity of the condition. The options include:


In cases where the cyst is small, not infected, and causing minimal discomfort, a healthcare provider may choose to monitor it without immediate intervention.

Incision and Drainage

If an abscess has formed, a healthcare provider may need to make an incision to drain the pus, which can provide immediate relief. Antibiotics are typically prescribed to clear the infection.

Lancing and Excision

For recurrent or severe pilonidal cysts, surgical procedures may be required. This can involve lancing (making an incision) and draining the cyst, followed by complete removal of the cyst and any affected tissue (excision).

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Some healthcare providers use minimally invasive techniques, such as laser or radiofrequency treatment, to remove the cyst. These methods often have shorter recovery times.

Preventive Measures

After treatment, it’s essential to take steps to prevent recurrence. Good personal hygiene, hair removal in the area, and avoiding prolonged sitting can help reduce the risk.


In conclusion, pilonidal cysts are a common but potentially painful condition, primarily affecting the tailbone area. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options is essential for prompt and effective management of this condition. If you suspect you have a pilonidal cyst or are experiencing symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment. Early intervention can help prevent complications and improve your overall quality of life.

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