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Cyst on your butt: Pilonidal cyst – Symptoms and causes

Pilonidal Cyst (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth

en español: Quiste pilonidal

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD

Primary Care Pediatrics at Nemours Children’s Health

What Is a Pilonidal Cyst?

A pilonidal cyst is a fluid-filled sac under the skin in the lower back, near the crease of the buttocks. Some aren’t visible, while others can look like a small pit or dimple in the skin.

They don’t usually cause problems or need treatment unless they get infected. A pilonidal (pie-luh-NIE-dul) cyst that’s infected is called a pilonidal abscess.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Pilonidal Cyst?

A cyst that isn’t infected might not cause any symptoms. Someone with an infected cyst can have:

  • pain, redness, and swelling in the area of the cyst
  • pus or blood draining from a small opening (called a sinus tract) in the skin over or near the cyst
  • a fever

What Causes a Pilonidal Cyst?

Doctors think that pilonidal cysts form when loose hair and dead skin cells get trapped under the skin. When we sit or bend, skin in the tailbone area stretches. This can cause hairs to break off. As a person moves, the broken hairs and dead skin cells can get pushed under the skin. The immune system treats the hair and dead skin cells as foreign, and forms a cyst around them that fills with fluid.

Who Gets Pilonidal Cysts?

Anyone can get a pilonidal cyst, but they’re most common in young men.

A person can be more likely to develop a pilonidal cyst if they:

  • are born with a dimple or pit in their tailbone area
  • spend a lot of time in a sitting position
  • are overweight
  • have a lot of body hair, especially if it’s thick or coarse
  • wear tight clothing that presses on the tailbone area
  • have family members with a pilonidal cyst

How Is a Pilonidal Cyst Diagnosed?

Doctors usually diagnose a pilonidal cyst based on where it is and how it looks and feels.

How Is a Pilonidal Cyst Treated?

A cyst that doesn’t cause symptoms might not need treatment.

Treatment for a pilonidal abscess depends on how severe the infection is. Home care with sitz baths and warm compresses can treat mild infections. If home care doesn’t work or the infection is more serious, doctors might make do the Gips procedure. This involves making a small cut to drain the abscess. They might prescribe antibiotics if the infection spreads to skin around the cyst.

How Can Parents Help?

To care for a pilonidal cyst at home:

  • Clean the area as directed.
  • If the doctor tells you to, regularly remove hair from the area by shaving or using a hair removal product. Permanent hair removal, such as laser hair removal, also might be an option.
  • Remind your child to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
  • Suggest that your child sleep on their side or stomach, which can be more comfortable.

If your child had a pilonidal cyst drained:

  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics, give them as directed.
  • Change or remove the bandage as recommended.
  • Your child shouldn’t take a bath or swim until the doctor says it’s OK.

What Else Should I Know?

After the infection heals, the doctor may suggest surgery to remove the cyst. Even after surgery, pilonidal cysts sometimes come back. Keeping the area clean and free of hair can help prevent an infection and new cysts.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD

Date reviewed: January 2020



Surgery for pilonidal cyst: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

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A pilonidal cyst is a pocket that forms around a hair follicle in the crease between the buttocks. The area may look like a small pit or pore in the skin that contains a dark spot or hair. Sometimes the cyst can become infected, and this is called a pilonidal abscess.

An infected pilonidal cyst or abscess requires surgical drainage. It will not heal with antibiotic medicines. If you continue to have infections, the pilonidal cyst can be removed by surgery.

There are several types of surgery.

Incision and drainage — This is the most common treatment for an infected cyst. It is a simple procedure done in the health care provider’s office.

  • Local anesthesia is used to numb the skin.
  • A cut is made in the cyst to drain fluid and pus. The hole is packed with gauze and left open.
  • Afterward, it can take up to 4 weeks for the cyst to heal. The gauze has to be changed often during this time.

Pilonidal cystectomy — If you keep having problems with a pilonidal cyst, it can be removed surgically. This procedure is done as an outpatient procedure, so you will not need to spend the night in the hospital.

  • You may be given medicine (general anesthesia) that keeps you asleep and pain-free. Or, you may be given medicine (regional anesthesia) that numbs you from the waist down. In rare cases, you may only be given local numbing medicine.
  • A cut is made to remove the skin with the pores and the underlying tissue with the hair follicles.
  • Depending on how much tissue is removed, the area may or may not be packed with gauze. Sometimes a tube is placed to drain fluid that collects after surgery. The tube is removed at a later time when the fluid stops draining.

It may be hard to remove the entire cyst, so there is a chance that it will come back.

Surgery is needed to drain and remove a pilonidal cyst that does not heal.

  • Your provider may recommend this procedure if you have pilonidal disease that is causing pain or infection.
  • A pilonidal cyst that is not causing symptoms does not need treatment.

Non-surgical treatment may be used if the area is not infected:

  • Shaving or laser removal of hair around the cyst
  • Injection of surgical glue into the cyst

Pilonidal cyst resection is generally safe. Ask your provider about these complications:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Taking a long time for the area to heal
  • Having the pilonidal cyst come back

Meet with your provider to make sure medical problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart or lung problems are in good control.

Tell your provider:

  • What medicines, vitamins, and other supplements you are taking, even ones you bought without a prescription.
  • If you are or could be pregnant.
  • If you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day.
  • If you are a smoker, stop smoking several weeks before the surgery. Your provider can help.
  • You may be asked to temporarily stop taking blood thinners, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), vitamin E, clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and any other medicines like these.
  • Ask your provider which medicines you should take on the day of your surgery.

On the day of the surgery:

  • Follow instructions about whether you need to stop eating or drinking before surgery.
  • Take the medicines your provider told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Follow instructions on when to arrive at the hospital. Be sure to arrive on time.

After the procedure:

  • You can go home after the procedure.
  • The wound will be covered with a bandage.
  • You will get pain medicines.
  • It is very important to keep the area around the wound clean.
  • Your provider will show you how to care for your wound.
  • After it heals, shaving the hair in the wound area may help prevent pilonidal disease from coming back.

Pilonidal cysts come back in about one half of the people who have surgery the first time. Even after a second surgery, it may come back.

Pilonidal abscess; Pilonidal dimple; Pilonidal disease; Pilonidal cyst; Pilonidal sinus

Hyman N, Umanskiy K. Anus. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 53.

Johnson EK, Vogel JD, Cowan ML, et al. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons’ clinical practice guidelines for the management of pilonidal disease. Dis Colon Rectum. 2019;62(2):146-157. PMID: 30640830 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30640830/.

Wells K, Pendola M. Pilonidal disease and perianal hidradenitis. In: Yeo CJ, ed. Shackelford’s Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2019:chap 153.