Body Piercing Problems - Topic Overview
Body piercing is very popular with both
men and women. Many areas of the body are used for piercing. Most people who
have piercings do not develop any problems.
The ears are the most
common piercing site. Most of the time, an earlobe piercing heals without any
problems. Piercing other areas of the ear usually involves piercing the
cartilage that gives the ear shape. Piercing ear cartilage creates a wound that
is harder to clean, takes longer to heal, and is more likely to become infected
than earlobe piercing.
Other popular sites include the mouth and
tongue, nose, eyebrow, navel, and genital area. Each body piercing site has its
healing time and its own set of potential problems.
Home treatment can help speed healing of the wound and prevent problems. At
first, a body piercing site may be slightly swollen. A small amount of blood or
fluid may drain from the site.
Common problems that develop from
body piercing include:
- Infection of the site. The risk for infection
increases if you have other
- Infection of the mouth or lips may cause
speech, chewing, or swallowing problems or swelling that can block the
- Infection of a nipple can scar the breast tissue and limit
the ability to breast-feed later.
- The infection may be potentially
serious or life-threatening and involve the entire body (systemic).
- Splitting or tearing of the skin, which may cause
the formation of scar tissue.
- Problems with the
type of jewelry used, including
allergies to a metal. Make sure you use the type of
jewelry designed for your piercing site. Only use nonallergenic jewelry.
Surgical stainless steel, gold, platinum, niobium, and titanium are the only
types of jewelry you should use in a new piercing.
- Other problems
caused by the jewelry.
- Jewelry in the mouth or lips can cause
chipping or cracking of the teeth, gum problems, and difficulty chewing or
swallowing. Jewelry can also become loose and be swallowed. See a picture of a
swallowed tongue piercing.
- Jewelry in the navel can get caught on
clothing and linens. This constant irritation can delay healing. Navel
piercings can take up to a year to heal completely.
- Jewelry in
the genital area may cause injury to you or your sex partner. It also can cause
condom breakage, increasing the risk of pregnancy and exposure to
sexually transmitted infections. Piercings in the penis
can decrease a man's ability to get or maintain an erection.
- Damage to underlying blood vessels or
- Scarring of the piercing site.
If a sterile technique is not used, there is a chance of
spreading many potentially life-threatening diseases through piercing. The most
common diseases transmitted are
hepatitis B and
hepatitis C. Other diseases that can be spread from
HIV. Blood infections (sepsis) can
occur if a sterile technique is not used.
You can reverse a body
piercing fairly easily by removing the jewelry, which allows the hole to close.
If you have not yet made a decision about piercing, it may be helpful to learn about making the choice to have a piercing and how to prevent
If you have a problem with a body piercing site, check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a