Understanding Pilonidal Sinus Infection

Pilonidal sinus infection is a condition caused and aggravated by bacteria, which causes pain and various degrees in swelling. As bacteria is known to be responsible for so many things in this world, be it good or bad, it is little wonder that such simple organisms bring about such condition. But before we get down on the matter, let us determine what we really know about sinuses first so we can appropriately proceed from there.

While most folks have known to associate the term “sinus” with our nose, sinuses in fact are bound to occur just about anywhere in the human body. Sinus for starters, is the medical term for any channel or cavity anywhere in our bodies, and the pilonidal sinus (nest of hairs) in particular is just a “tunnel” or a small hole containing hairs found in our skin. Normally, it develops anywhere on the top part of our buttocks clefts, just where our buttocks visibly separate.

A pilonidal sinus infection causes swelling and pain as mentioned above due to the presence of bacteria, which then leads to the development of pus-filled abscess. In any given day, an operation will be normally required to open up the sinus and drain away the pus, bacteria and other waste materials inside for good. A pilonidal sinus infection is not known to cause any symptom until the infection itself is already underway. While the exact causes remain unclear up to this day, the infection is always thought to have been due to loose hair materials that happen to pierce the skin.

It is also thought that human beings develop the skin dimple (or the skin pit) on the skin area in between their buttocks. This is attributed to the damaged hair follicles due to local friction or pressure. The latter causes growing hair within the natal cleft to gets pushed around the skin pits.
Another theory is regarding minor hereditary or congenital abnormality on the skin surrounding the natal cleft. This would explain why the infection is also present among families. In this case, the hairs in this part of the skin grow inwards rather than outwards.

Whatever caused pilonidal sinus infection in each case, inflammation and irritation will manifest once hair fragments located in the area becomes “stuck” into the skin. The inflamed skin will become infected by then, causing the sinus to break out. A similar condition can also be pointed out in the case of hairdressers, where areas in between their fingers become infected as customer hairs are introduced into the area with typically moist and damaged skin.
Whenever a pilonidal sinus infection manifests, treatment must take place immediately to prevent further spreading. Stopping the infection in its tracks is important so you will not risk spreading into the blood system (sepsis), which can become very serious at every level. Normally, you will start with antibiotics, but there is also a need to drain the pus effectively, called drainage and incision.

If the infection persists, surgical procedures aimed to remove the sinus are a common recommendation. The techniques include leaving wounds open for healing and packing it up with dressings on a daily basis, and closing the wounds using stitches and a flap of skin on top. After the operation, keeping the area free from growing hair is a must; shaving and other hair removal methods must be practiced.

Pilonidal sinus infection is a rare case, affecting just twenty-six for every hundred thousand individuals on a yearly basis. The infection affects both men and women (though females usually suffer from having more of the hairs in the area), with men encountering the condition in their early twenties, and the women usually suffering from the condition just before they reach their twenties. The condition is also found to be rare in children and folks over forty.

Studies attribute the factors that increase the risks of developing the condition at anytime to the following:

  • Obesity
  • Sitting down for very long periods
  • Previous cases of persistent injuries or irritation to the sinus area
  • The condition running through the family, and
  • Having a deep natal cleft full of hairs

Army jeep drivers in the military are also familiar with the condition, as they have learned to call it the “jeep seat.” They have probably suffered from long hours of hard driving with all the bouncing around their seats due to road conditions and terrain, all contributing to the irritation, minor injuries and pressure surrounding the natal cleft.

It must be noted that the pilonidal sinus infection will not cause any symptoms at the initial stage. You may have it already even if you are not yet aware of its presence. Some individuals will only get to notice a certain painless lump in the area whenever washing it. In most cases though, the symptoms will develop further, becoming acute or chronic. You may suffer from an increasing swelling and pain in a span of days whenever an infected abscess with all the pus surrounding the infected area develop all around the sinus, which then becomes very painful upon interaction.
Persistent or chronic symptoms on the other hand, are felt in every four out of ten individuals as recurrence of the infection. In your case, you might develop pain in lesser intensity compared to acute symptoms. In every manifestation, the sinus is certain to discharge some pus, thus releasing the pressure and eventually easing off the pain. This does not mean that the pilonidal sinus infection will clear away completely however. The pain and the discharge may continue to occur in the long term, and even flare up from time to time. All these contribute to the inconvenience to daily life, affecting productivity and comfort along the way. The best way to stop the infection for good is undergoing a medical operation.

If you are currently not suffering from any symptoms of the pilonidal sinus infection indicated above, your doctor will normally recommend that you clear out the affected area of hairs through shaving and a good personal hygiene.

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