Complications from Body Piercings

December 15, 2022

Dr. Jerry Williams of Urgent Care 24/7 discusses common problem we see in our national urgent care company - complications from body piercings.

That means body piercings of all types, earrings, nose rings, facial brow lip, all kinds of different piercings. You have to understand that when you have a piercing, you're actually putting a foreign body into your skin. It's a wound until the wounded area, actually epithelium losses or skin grows over that, that open wound. During that period of time from when the piercing is placed, to when it actually grows over with epithelium and the skin is contiguous along the canal of where the piercing is that open wound is subject or, or more prone to infection. So that's why when you get a piercing, they tell you to wash it with soap and water, keep it clean and also to rotate it.

The actual earring itself or the actual piercing itself will not adhere to the wound and allow that epithelialization or skin growth to occur inside the canal of the piercing. So we see patients who even if you do all that stuff, and you're careful about it, it can still get infected. But unfortunately, when people have new piercings, they tend to fidget with it and play with it. It's a natural response because it's new and your body's trying to get used to that feeling of that foreign body there. Plus your body's trying to get rid of it is saying hey, there's a foreign body or foreign object here, we want to reject that foreign body, we want to get rid of it. It makes perfect sense that people are more apt to put their hands on it, dirty hands touching the wound, and thus can lead to an infection. This is really common, when we see these patients, of course, the first thing we want to do is make certain that we get the infection under control and get it completely cleared up.

Because these infections can lead to cellulitis abscess, and even systemic sepsis, where the bacteria go throughout the entire body and that can be a life threatening illness. What's interesting though, is we also want for our patient to not have to go through a piercing again, we like to try to save the piercing and not have to remove it, and where the patient has to start all over where the wound has to heal over completely. Then they have to go back after all that's resolved and try again and get another piercing. So we try to save or keep the piercing in place, if possible but at least half the time, if not more. Infections are serious enough to where we feel like we have to remove that foreign body and do careful wound management and wound care until it heals completely and then send the client back and try again.

So in that in these cases, where if you're going to get a piercing, you're thinking about getting a piercing, it's really important that you prevent that infection with keeping your hands off of it very, very careful. Care after your piercing, and of course first and foremost going to a reputable piercing professional who will use aseptic technique and make sure that the procedures done in an aseptic or sterile can be under sterile conditions so you don't start off with it being prone to an infection from the beginning.

Make sure that you listen to your piercing professionals advice followed to the letter. Keep your hands off of your piercings. And if you see any evidence of unusual discharge or pass any extraordinary or increasing redness or swelling, pain or any fever or any where there would be a hot feeling around the piercing to the touch, you need to go seek medical care immediately for that and get it evaluated, because you could be starting an infection, and keep in mind the earlier we catch that infection.

The less severe we catch that infection, the less likelihood that you're going to have more complications and actually, the better the likelihood that you might be able to save the piercing and not have to remove it completely though in more cases than not we do end up having to remove the piercing. We hate that and we want to try to save the piercing but your overall health and well-being is more important than the piercing of course.

Dr. Williams hopes that you find this information useful and if you get a piercing he hopes that it goes smoothly, you get a fast healing and you can enjoy that piercing for a long time and we keep your complications to a minimum.

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