Many individuals may believe that they suffer from boils when their problem is actually a pilonidal cyst. Although the signs and symptoms tend to mimic one another, there are a few differences in these types of abscesses. Two of the biggest differences are generally the location and the cause. Before dismissing this painful condition as a boil, the patient may want to consider these things.
Location is Key
The pilonidal cyst is commonly found on the upper buttocks at the lower back or what is commonly referred to as the tailbone. Although they can occur in other areas, this is usually very rare. A boil on the other hand can occur on various areas of the body. According to emedicine.com, the pilonidal cyst may appear on the hands rather than the buttocks in a few very uncommon cases.
Causes of Cysts on the Tailbone
The majority of these cysts are believed to be caused by hairs that penetrate into the underlying skin, quite similar to an ingrown hair. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria and increases the risk of infection. Most people are completely unaware of the cyst until a “flare up” or infection, referred to as an abscess occurs.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a pilonidal cyst are quite similar to that of a boil. Tenderness, swelling and pain are typically the hallmark. Redness and discomfort are also very common and may become severe for some patients. Fever is possible but is not commonly noted in patients suffering from either cysts or boils in the tailbone region. However, it is important to note that these problems do not occur until infection has occurred.
Diagnosing a cyst or boil near the tailbone is generally quite simple. There are typically no complicated tests or blood work required, only an examination. During the examination the physician will inspect the area and sometimes palpation is necessary. Depending on the findings, the cyst may be treated right in the office.
Treatment for a pilonidal cyst consists of lancing and draining of the abscess. This procedure is considered minor and may be performed in an outpatient clinic, physician’s office or emergency room. However, recurring cysts may need surgical removal. In these cases, the patient will be referred to a general surgeon. The incision may be left open or closed; this decision will vary on an individual basis.
Pilonidal Cyst. Mayo Clinic. Updated 8, July 2010. Viewed 29, September 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pilonidal-cyst/DS00747
Pilonidal Cyst Causes, Symptoms, Signs and Treatment. eMedicine. 2010. Viewed 29, September 2010. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/pilonidal_cyst/article_em.htm