What is pilonidal disease?

Pilonidal disease is an infection in the crease of a person’s buttocks, from the bottom of the spine to the anus. Pilonidal disease is a common condition, but one often not discussed due to embarrassment. There are more than 70,000 diagnoses in the United States each year. Pilonidal disease can refer to a one-time cyst or a chronic condition. If not treated, chronic pilonidal disease can lead to abscesses and sinus cavities. It may need to be treated surgically.

Who gets pilonidal disease?

Anyone can get pilonidal disease. However, it is three to four times more common in men than women. It is also more common in people who are overweight, or those with coarse body hair. It usually occurs between the ages of puberty and 40, with the average age between 20 and 35.

During World War II, pilonidal disease was often called "Jeep driver's disease." It is more common in people who sit often, such as truck drivers.

Wearing tight clothing can also worsen the condition.

What causes pilonidal disease?

The causes of pilonidal disease are not completely known. It is believed to be caused by hairs becoming embedded into the skin. The ingrown hairs cause the body to react by forming a pit and causing inflammation. If not treated, this infection can lead to a cyst, and possibly into an abscess (pockets of infection) or a sinus (a cavity underneath the skin).

Pilonidal disease usually first shows up as a swollen area or abscess with draining pus. This may then lead to a sinus.

What are the symptoms of pilonidal disease?

Pilondial disease can be painful, and this pain may be your first symptom. It may be worse when you are sitting and putting pressure on your buttocks. You may see a small dimple or large swollen mass in the area between your buttocks.

You may notice cloudy or bloody fluid draining from the affected area. This fluid may be foul smelling. The area may look red and feel tender.

Other symptoms of pilonidal disease can include nausea, fever, and extreme tiredness. You should seek prompt medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms.

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