by Associate Clinician Christa Haines
Body piercing is a popular practice of men and women today, and ears aren’t the only areas getting pierced. Popular for style, cultural norms, religious motives, and other reasons, piercings are often performed on individuals who are not aware that there could be some harmful side effects associated with the procedure. As the desire for self-expression in the form of piercings continues to grow, it is important to consider how this type of body art influences the health and function of the body, and how to avoid any long term risks.
One of the first concerns associated with body piercings is the risk for viral or bacterial infections. There is a possibility of cross-contamination from non-sterile needles or other equipment. According to Health Search, “If piercing instruments are not sterile, this can lead to bacterial infections, such as staph and tetanus, and may transmit viral infections such as Hepatitis B and C.” Infections can also be caused from improper cleaning or touching of the pierced area during and after the procedure. To avoid contamination and infection, it is important to go to a reputable place to have a piercing performed. Many doctors offer ear piercing, and this can be a great option to ensure a safe, sterile procedure.
If getting a piercing in the tongue or naval area, it is important to know that these locations are the most at risk for growing bacterial infections. According to Dr. Arthur W. Perry, MD, “Bacteria causes increased inflammation in the body. This type of inflammation can lead to problems, including heart disease.” Bad breath is one minor problem from bacteria. We all have bacteria in our mouths, but it becomes especially unhealthy as it begins to build up on the studs.
Other side effects that can occur from piercings are hematomas and scarring. Hematomas are blood-filled cysts that can form because of damage to blood vessels and lead to more harmful issues. Scars can form once the puncture site attempts to heal. Not only can scarring be cosmetically undesirable, it also interrupts neurological pathways along the surface of the skin, limiting communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Specifically, keloid scarring can form, which is permanent and must be surgically removed.
Allergic reactions are another risk to consider, and they can come into play during a piercing procedure as well as after. Because the tools used to perform piercings are metal, the process of getting the hole can sometimes lead to an allergic response. A severe allergy to p-phenylenediamine can result from metal piercing. Once a piercing is obtained, it then becomes important to consider what types of metals make up the jewelry you wear. Titanium, nickel and niobium are some of the most common metals that can cause irritation in the ears, nose, belly button and tongue regions. Stainless steel is often a better choice of metal to wear, but it still contains some nickel and can still cause irritation for some people.
Before deciding to get a piercing, it is important to recognize that all piercing locations are not equal! Some parts of the body are more dangerous to pierce than others. For example, tongue piercings can encourage bacterial growth, gingivitis, and commonly cause chipped teeth, especially in the back of the mouth. Due to the delicate tissue in the tongue, nerves can be injured, hematomas are more likely, and healing can be prolonged. With nasal, lip, and tongue piercings, there is a chance that a part of a piece of jewelry could dangerously end up in the lungs. Genital piercing can heighten the risk of spreading STDs or tearing a contraceptive. Areas that come in contact with clothing can easily get caught on fabric, causing a tear in the surrounding skin or tissue. And of course, more sensitive areas can be more susceptible to nerve damage.
The safest place for most people to have a piercing is in the earlobes. The tissue of the ears, as opposed to the cartilage, is better able to adapt to the puncture sight and influence of jewelry. There are less risks associated with ear piercing overall, making it the safest option.
Knowing how much harm can be inflicted on the body through piercings, what can one do about it? Well, if you are thinking of getting a piercing, then hopefully this information will allow you to make an informed decision. If you already have body piercings, there are ways to counter the possible side effects or internal damage that might be occurring from them. At the Well, a clinician can help you to determine if your piercings are creating any distress in your body, and then we can work with you to heal any scarring that has taken place in the pierced area, as well as support your body nutritionally to be able to heal any distress that has occurred within your body. We believe that the body has the innate ability to heal itself, so it is never too late to identify an area that needs attention and work to heal it and restore health to the body and vitality to life!
Christa Haines, NTP
Christa is an Associate Clinician at the Well of Life Center for Natural Health. The Well of Life Center is a holistic wellness center that specializes in nutrition, chiropractic, massage services, and more. Celebrating their 11th year in business, the Well of Life Center has locations in Doylestown and Bethlehem PA. For more information, please visit welloflifecenter.com.