Body piercing can have serious health risks

December 11, 2018

Q. My granddaughter came home with a belly-button ring. God help us all. What is going on with these body piercings?

Body piercings have become more popular in the last 25 years, but they are certainly not a new thing. People in most cultures have pierced themselves for thousands of years. There are mummified remains of a human in Egypt that was pierced more than 5,000 years ago. Body piercings are also mentioned in the Bible.

Piercing the body and inserting jewelry in the holes is classified as a form of skin adornment, a fashion statement. Female ear piercing has long been accepted in Western culture. Now, we see piercings of the navel, nose, eyebrows, nipples, lips, tongue and genitals. Oral and genital piercing are supposed to increase sexual pleasure.

A single-use, sterilized piercing gun is usually used to insert an earring into the earlobe. A hollow needle is used to pierce a hole in the skin in other parts of the body. Jewelry is inserted after the perforation is made.

You and your granddaughter should know that there are risks to body piercing. Here they are:

• Any kind of piercing can lead to infection.

• Jewelry can cause allergic reactions, especially if it contains nickel. Avoid jewelry made of nickel or brass. Use jewelry made of titanium, 14-carat gold or surgical-grade steel.

• Tongue piercings can crack your teeth and damage your gums.

• Body piercing can cause keloids, which are an overgrowth of scar tissue.

• Growths called pyogenic granulomas can form. A pyogenic granuloma is usually a small red, oozing and bleeding bump that looks like raw hamburger meat. These must be removed.

• Contaminated piercing equipment can give you AIDS, hepatitis and tetanus.

• Surgery is required if jewelry gets caught on something and tears your skin.

Tell your granddaughter that it is important to keep her piercing very clean. She should clean her navel area with warm water and soap twice a day. She should also use a liquid medicated cleanser while gently moving the ring around. (Oral piercings require an antibacterial rinse after meals.)

Healing from a piercing can take anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year. Someone with a piercing should not pick or tug it. Never use hydrogen peroxide because it can break down newly formed tissue.

Studies have shown that people with certain types of heart disease might have a higher risk of developing a heart infection after body piercing. Anyone with allergies, diabetes, skin problems, immune system disorders or infections should ask a doctor about precautions before a piercing.

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