Pilonidal disease is most common among young adults ages 16-22. This age range largely overlaps with college age students, and can interfere with normal college life. Because the recovery of Cleft Lift surgery for pilonidal disease is extensive (up to 6 weeks until you can resume all normal activities), most college students elect to wait to have the operation until the end of Spring semester. This gives them more than enough time over summer break to fully heal and recover before returning to school in the Fall. Occasionally, symptoms interfere with daily life so often that patients decide to have surgery over Christmas break, which typically gives them adequate, but less, recovery time before returning in the Spring. These are decisions that should be made with your surgeon based on your individual case.
In the months leading up to surgery, there are several different management options that can allow for symptomatic relief as well as decrease in the number and duration of flare-ups. The most important of these is proper hygiene. There is no substitute for keeping the area as clean as possible, which will help to reduce the risk of infection and thus the dramatic symptoms that accompany an acute infection. Hibiclens is an antibacterial soap that should be used to wash the natal cleft at least once a day. Thorough cleaning every day will decrease the amount of bacteria present, and reduce the number of infections. The second most important measure is hair removal. Many times infections are caused by hairs that block the normal outflow of fluid drainage and lead to back up within the pilonidal cyst. When this fluid accumulates, it allows bacteria to reproduce, causing an infection. By staying on top of both proper hygiene and hair removal, it is possible to decrease the number of acute flare-ups which are typically painful and disruptive to daily life.
It is also important to pay attention to your body and specifically your pilonidal disease while you are away at school. If you seek medical treatment at the first sign of infection, you can shorten the duration of the flare-up. Whenever you feel an increase in pain or enlarging bump in the area, you should be evaluated. Often times, antibiotics at the start of an infection can be enough to take care of the problem. Otherwise, the abscess (infected cyst) may need to be drained.