What Is the Difference Between a Pilonidal Cyst & an Anal Fistula?


Pilonidal cysts and anal fistulas are similar in location and surgical treatment requirements. Both infections occur within the buttocks at the base of the spine, and require medical intervention when they become infected. Anal fistulas, however, involve the lower digestive tract whereas pilonidal cysts do not.

Where Pilonidal Cysts Occur

  • Pilonidal cysts occur at the bottom of the tailbone and are usually skin infections that arise because of a bacterial infection of the skin due to moisture and hair pushing into the skin where the buttocks come together. Infected cysts must be medically cleaned and allowed to drain.

Who Gets Pilonidal Cysts

  • Pilonidal cysts often occur in young women under the age of 25, but soldiers traveling in rough conditions have also been known to develop these types of cysts.

Pilonidal Cyst Prevention

  • Hair removal in the cleft of the buttocks, as well as keeping the area clean and dry can help prevent pilonidal cysts. Changing underwear on a daily basis can help prevent repeated infection.

What Anal Fistulas Are

  • Anal fistulas are infections of the anal gland that are filled with pus, and form a tube that connects the anal gland to the skin. Anal fistulas occur where there have been previous anal gland infections. Surgery is required to drain the infection and allow it to heal.

Why Anal Fistuals Develop

  • Anal fistulas occur when one has already had an anal abscess. Abscesses are the result of an infection of the anal gland, that surround the inside of the base of the rectum.

Prevention of the Anal Fistula

  • Prevention of the anal fistula is recommended by increasing dietary fiber and water, in order to make bowel movements easier and to prevent glandular clogging.

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  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of David Goehring
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