FOURTH QUARTER 2002, VOLUME 16, NO 4

To Pierce or Not to Pierce; What are the Risks?

IN THIS ISSUE

BOTOX Cosmetic – Now FDA Approved for Aesthetic Treatment

Ask the Surgeon / Health Tip / What’s New

To Pierce or Not to Pierce; What are the Risks?

Many people choose to express themselves through body piercing. Unfortunately, there is little communication on the importance of sterility, placement, and care of the piercing site. A recent study sited that approximately one-fifth of people with body piercing have piercing-related health problems.

Educating the Consumer
Take for example, Chad N. of Washington, DC, who no longer has a tongue bar and advocates for more education. “I knew sterility was important. I visited a number places before deciding on one that appeared clean and used one-time needles,” explains Chad. He was told the process of piercing and given some follow-up suggestions, such as rinsing with a mouthwash. “There were three things that I wish I had been told that might have changed my mind:

First, the unbelievable swelling was uncomfortable and prevented me from eating solid foods for the first two days. Second, I had to take the bar off and scrape the yellow, plaque build-up every couple of weeks, which besides unattractive was disgusting. And third, I chipped my front tooth on the bar.” Chad was also very concerned about getting an infection. “After you get pierced there are no follow-up visits to make sure you don’t have an infection,” says Chad. He removed his tongue bar because he felt it was not advantageous during job interviews. “Unfortunately, I have a pronounced, white lump under my tongue that is unappealing but at least hidden,” he concludes.

Pierced eyebrowStating the Risks

Metal Allergy: : Many people develop an allergic reaction to the jewelry, particularly if it is nickel. This can cause redness, swelling, itching, burning, and tenderness. Your chances of a metal allergy are reduced if you use surgical steel (300-grade) jewelry.

Infection: At the time of piercing, if the conditions are not sterile you are likely to get an infection. Also, if foreign objects collect around or in the wound, bacteria begins to grow and causes an infection. A visit to your physician is required for prescribed antibiotics.

Oral damage: Putting a metal object through your lip or tongue can cause chipping or cracking of the teeth. There may also be damage to the underlying blood vessels and nerves if not placed or performed correctly.

Scar tissue development: Even the slightest infection will cause scar tissue to develop, defeating the aesthetic purpose. Patients have come to their facial plastic surgeon to remove and reconstruct the area.

Blood borne disease: If the instruments and needles are not sterile, you are at risk of contracting a blood borne disease, such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

Before body piercing, the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) receommends consulting your physician. Good idea!!!