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Pilonidal Cyst

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a pilonidal cyst?

A pilonidal cyst is a small sac under the skin. Pilonidal cysts may become infected and cause an abscess (collection of pus). Pilonidal cysts may be caused by an ingrown hair. A hair may become ingrown if it rubs against your skin. The friction can cause hair to dig into the skin and get trapped.

What are the signs and symptoms of a pilonidal cyst?

  • A small hole or dimple in the center of your lower back, usually right above the buttocks
  • Tender or painful area after you do physical activities or sit for a long period of time
  • Hot, red, swollen area that may drain pus if the cyst becomes infected

How is a pilonidal cyst diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. You may not need any treatment. A pilonidal cyst may go away on its own. If the cyst becomes infected, you may need any of the following:

  • A procedure may be used to drain the pus. Your healthcare provider may make a small incision to drain the pus. Then he or she will pack the area with gauze. He or she may put a scope into the incision. The cyst is drained through the scope.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove the cyst if it becomes infected often.

How can I help prevent an infection?

  • Shave around the cyst. This will prevent hairs from entering the cyst. Your healthcare provider may recommend laser hair removal.
  • Clean the cyst area as directed. Your provider may recommend you use a mild soap and rinse the area well.
  • Do not sit for long periods of time. This may cause the cyst to get irritated.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your cyst is red and swollen.
  • Your cyst has pus draining from it.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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