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Cartilage Piercing Riskier Than Earlobes

Infection From Stubborn Bacteria More Likely When Upper Ear Is Pierced

'Cosmetically Devastating'

Pseudomonas infection typically occurs weeks or months after the initial piercing. "Realize this is not a trivial thing and requires medical attention," he tells WebMD. "While Pseudomonas infection is not life-threatening, it can be cosmetically devastating. Untreated, the cartilage dies and needs to be surgically removed. And without cartilage to maintain the ear's shape, you get these deformities."

His advice for avoiding problems: "It's one thing to say, 'Don't go to a dirty place,' but even if it looks clean, you cannot tell if the gun has been sterilized properly. But people getting their ears pierced should be aware of the potential for problems, especially if they're having cartilage pierced. And they certainly can see the device being used. If it's not a sterilized needle or encapsulated gun, go somewhere else."

SOURCES: Keene, W, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 25, 2004; vol 291; pp 981-985. William E. Keene, PhD, MPH, epidemiologist, Oregon Department of Human Services, Portland.

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