What is a pilonidal cyst?

A pilonidal cyst is a sac filled with hair, skin, and other debris. It typically forms at the top of the buttocks, right between the cleft, which separates the two cheeks.

You can get a pilonidal cyst when a hair gets lodged inside your skin. Friction on the ingrown hair from sitting or rubbing can irritate your skin and cause the cyst to form.

Sometimes, these cysts become infected and a pocket of pus called an abscess forms.

Pilonidal cysts are more common in men and people who sit for long periods of time, such as office workers are truck drivers. You’re also more likely to get one of these cysts if you have thick, stiff body hair.

The only way to get rid of a pilonidal cyst is through a minor surgical procedure. But there are a few things you can do at home to ease pain and discomfort in the meantime.

Try applying a hot, wet compress to the cyst a few times a day. The heat will help pull out the pus, allowing the cyst to drain. This can relieve pain and itching.

You might also try soaking the area in a warm, shallow bath. You can also try taking a sitz bath.

If the cyst hurts, you can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen (Advil).

A pilonidal cyst can look similar to a pimple, tempting some to pop them with their fingers. But popping a pilonidal cyst won’t fix the problem. Remember pilonidal cysts are filled with hair and other debris in addition to pus, and you won’t be able to get it all out by squeezing.

The location of pilonidal cysts can make it hard to see what you’re doing. You also run the risk of developing an infection or leaving a scar.

Pilonidal cysts are treated with a simple in-office procedure. A doctor will start by numbing the area with an injection of a local anesthetic. Next, they’ll use a surgical knife to make a small incision to help drain the pus and debris from the cyst.

Once everything has been removed from the cyst, they’ll pack the wound with sterile gauze or close it with stitches, depending on the location. Make sure to follow the wound care instructions from your doctor as you recover.

Sometimes, a pilonidal cyst will reappear in the same area, even if you recently had one drained. When this happens, you may need a more extensive surgical procedure to remove the entire cyst, not just the internal contents.

Once you’ve had a pilonidal cyst surgically drained, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing another one.

First, try to avoid sitting for long periods of time, which places pressure on the area where pilonidal cysts develop. If you’re job requires you to sit for most of the day, try to set aside a few minutes every hour to stand up and take a quick walk.

Carrying extra weight can also make you more prone to developing pilonidal cysts. Your doctor can give you a better idea of whether your weight may be playing a role in your cysts.

Finally, try to keep the area between the cheeks of your buttocks as clean and dry as possible. Wearing correct-fitting clothes can help to prevent sweat from collecting there. In addition, consider removing any hair you have growing near the top of your buttocks.

Home treatments can relieve discomfort from a pilonidal cyst. But to get rid of it for good, you’ll need to see a doctor. To prevent cysts from forming again in the future, avoid prolonged sitting. Keep the area above your buttocks clean, dry, and free from hair.