Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A pilonidal cyst is a blanket term for any type of skin infection near the tailbone. These are normally quite painful, generally occur in men, and normally happen in early adulthood. Although usually found near the tailbone, this painful condition can be found in several places, including the navel or the armpit. Development of the condition in a place other than the tailbone is exceedingly rare, however. It usually happens in young people, up to their thirties in age.
Doctors are not sure what causes a pilonidal cyst. One theory is that a small and harmless cyst has always been present at birth, and that for some reason, it has become irritated and formed a painful abscess. Another explanation is that it is an ingrown hair , which also formed an abscess. It is common to find hair follicles inside the cyst—according to some statistics approximately fifty percent of the cysts drained are found to contain hair follicles, though this is not thought to be the sole cause of the condition.
It was discussed by Herbert Mayo in 1830. R.M. Hodges was the first to use the phrase "pilonidal cyst" to describe the condition in 1880. It is a combination of two Latin words, pilus, meaning hair and nidal, meaning nest.
The condition was widespread in United States Army during World War II. More than eighty thousand soldiers had the condition requiring hospitalization. It was termed "Jeep riders' disease," because a large portion of people who were being hospitalized for it rode in jeeps, and it was theorized that prolonged rides in the bumpy vehicles caused the condition.
By the time the Vietnam War was fought, the U.S. government treated this condition as a valid reason for a medical deferment. Future radio personality Rush Limbaugh had this condition, and he received a medical deferment; it is theorized but not confirmed that the pilonidal cyst was the reason for the medical deferment.
Treatment for a pilonidal cyst usually begins when the patient goes to the doctor because of pain. It is treated as an infection, and a doctor might prescribe antibiotics as well as the application of hot compresses. Often the cyst is lanced, and surgery is a method that has met with some success for curing pilonidal cysts. Surgery on a cyst in the tailbone area involves cutting out the skin and flesh all the way down to the coccyx and allowing the body to regrow the ablated tissue. Varying methods are used to either pack the wound, or suture it partially and even completely, closed depending on the physician's opinion on how best to treat the patient. The condition can recur, even after surgery. Some people have a chronic problem with this, while most others never have the condition again after surgical treatment.
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