My advice for taking care of cyst based on my experience

#1
Okay, I posted some advice in a couple of threads and I decided to go ahead and put together a list of advice based on my personal experience dealing with my own pilonidal cyst. I truly hope this can be of help to those suffering with the condition. These things are complicated. I hope in due time the medical industry can advance their understanding of this condition and how to more efficiently combat the condition. This is going to be long and I will put a "Too Long Didn't Read" summary of the high points at the bottom.

My Brief Story

I was diagnosed at age 18. I started to notice the cyst after sitting through a movie at the cinema. I was adjusting every minute and figured I had just been sitting around too much. I figured this would be an issue that would resolve on its own. I further aggravated the cyst when doing sit-ups with my football team. Later that evening, I noticed the area begin to swell and the area started to itch. I had no idea what was happening, and I naturally messed with the cyst area to relieve the itching. This caused the cyst to swell more and eventually surface to a head. For a while I didn't tell anybody because I was embarrassed. Don't do that! These are a lot more common than people think.

After a semester of college dealing with the cyst, I opted for surgery. I had a closed excision operation done that required 1-2 weeks recovery time. Recovery went fine. I was off of my feet for 5 full days, but probably started sitting too soon. I was cyst-free for about 3 full years. The cyst returned shortly after college.

I met with a specialist and he recommended against another surgery. He commented another operation in the same area is going to be more complicated, and these cysts have a tendency to resolve ("dry out", in his words) on their own in Mid-30s to early 40s timeframe. It is extremely important to note my cyst had been rather dormant for a year or so after returning. I was not experiencing the type of pain I was experiencing during my 1st cyst, and this heavily factored into my decision. We mutually agreed that we would not pursue surgery, but rather learn to live with this condition and care for it as part of a day to day commitment. He said if it became a quality of life issue then we would look at surgery. It has been 5 years since I had that meeting and my cyst has been rather dormant with the exception of flair ups that last 3-5 days every 3-6 months. Below are tips I want to share based on my experience dealing with the cyst. Please note I am not a doctor or a scientist, and these tips are based on what seems to work and what seems to make the cyst worse.

1) Clean the area as a daily process. I have a routine of soaking in a hot tub with Epsom Salts. My specialist advised the use of Epsom Salts to combat the cyst may be more of a myth. He stated the hot water is the more critical factor as this helps increase blood circulation and ultimately move fluids around. I use the Epsom Salts anyways as they make the hot soaking a more relaxing experience and they may be helping the cyst to some degree. I clean the cyst area with rubbing alcohol before entering the hot tub. My brother's doctor (he has one as well, they run in our family) recommended highest alcohol % due to better evaporation properties. I have yet to try 90%+ versus 70% which even the 70% has helped tremendously. After about 20-30 minutes of soaking (the longer the better relief for the cyst), I then clean the area with rubbing alcohol again and apply a gauze pad secured by two small strips of athletic tape. The 2nd strip prevents the gauze pad from moving throughout the day. I do not notice the gauze pad during the day and stopped noticing 3 days into this process. It's a 2-minute time investment to clean the cyst with alcohol and apply the gauze and in my experience it yields great returns. I firmly believe this gauze pad layer acts as a barrier preventing debris/sweat/etc from interacting with the cyst. I recommend that you don't stop doing this even if the cyst condition improves! I rip the gauze pads in half to stretch them out for longer periods of time. It's about a $6-7 investment every 4-5 weeks to get more gauze pads, athletic tape, and rubbing alcohol.

2) Stop sitting around. Part of this condition is rocket science, part of it is not. The more you sit, the more you piss it off. Make it a point to get up and move around. If you have a job that involves sitting, get up at least once every hour and move around for 5-10 minutes. If you are at a work conference with those terrible seats, then stand in the back of the room or get up to use the restroom every now and then. If someone really questions you, simply tell them you have a condition where you cannot sit for extended periods of time. If you are playing video games or watching television on the weekend, make sure you get up to do some chores or take the dog for a brief walk. The point is the more you sit then the more you will aggravate the cyst. Exercise in general will improve your health, but I have found that when I am more active the cyst condition improves.

3) Eat a balanced diet with an emphasis on vegetables. Vegetables contain nutrients. Nutrients help your body function, particularly your immune system. This immune system combats the infection brought on by the cyst. I notice a direct correlation that when I am dieting well, the cyst seems to improve. I experienced a bad flair up this past week, and I ate a dinner of an entire tomato (added sea salt and cracked pepper for flavor) and a side of banana peppers. This combined with a full night of sleep and the cyst swelling went down 50% overnight. The vegetables will make you feel more lively in general. They also contain water weight which helps you hydrate. Tomatoes and onions are superfoods that pack a nutrient punch. Be sure to eat in moderation because too much of these foods will upset your stomach.

4) Hydrate. Hydration enhances cellular function and structure. Hydration will allow you to function better in general, and this is another step that can help your body accommodate the cyst.

5) *Drier Climate. *I understand this is not an option for everybody. I live in the Southern USA, which is known for its humidity. This, in my experience and opinion, does not bode well for the cyst. I find that when I visit family in Southern California and Colorado, the cyst DRAMATICALLY improves within days. Last time I stayed in Colorado for a week, the cyst completely went down by the end of the trip. All I could notice was scar tissue from my original surgery. Unfortunately when I returned to the South, the cyst swelled back up within a week or so. If this condition has brought you significant hardship for an extended period of time, and a move to a drier climate is feasible, then I would strongly recommend that consideration. Perhaps do a trial by staying somewhere dry for 1-2 weeks and see if your condition improves. Again, I know this is not feasible for everyone, but I am sharing what has worked and what has not worked in my 10 year experience. I believe the dry climate "simply" helps dry out the cyst.

Too Long Didn't Read Summary

Make a commitment to clean the cyst area daily. If you can swing it, do it 2-3 times a day. Clean with rubbing alcohol (may sting, sorry), hot soak for 20-30 minutes (longer the better for the cyst), and clean again with rubbing alcohol after hot soak. Cover the cyst area with gauze pad and secure this with two small strips of athletic tape. The 2nd strip helps prevent the gauze from moving throughout the day. Change the gauze daily. Challenge yourself to emphasize vegetables in your diet for the high nutritional benefit which aids your immune system in combating the cyst infection. Tomatoes and onions have helped me, in my opinion, during flair ups. They are known as "superfoods" that pack high nutrition and should make you feel better in general. Hydrate, because you should in general. Hydration promotes healthier cellular function and cell structure. Don't sit around all day. The more you sit, the more pissed off the cyst becomes. If you work a sedentary job, make it a point to get up and move around at least once an hour. Sitting restricts blood circulation. Try to exercise every day even if it's a 30-minute walk for 1-2 miles. Finally, if the cyst is truly impacting the quality of your life and if it's feasible, consider relocation to a drier climate. I believe the dry climate helps "dry out" the cyst. I have noticed dramatic improvement the few times I have visited family in the Western USA.

That's it folks! I hope some of these steps might help you out. They have helped me live with this condition and I honestly need to be better about sticking to them as an everyday process. Several of the things I mentioned will improve your health in general (hydration, balanced diet with more vegetables, less sitting around, and more exercise).
 
#2
Couldn't agree more with the hydrate part. It is surprising how much better you feel and how many problems get fixed by just drinking an adequate amount of water.
 
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