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Body Piercing

Body Piercing:
Not a Hole New Trend

A Piercing Procedure
Who Shouldn't Get Pierced
How to Choose A Piercing Studio
Risks and Side Effects
Puncture Perfect
Caring for Your Piercing
Is It Infected?
What Happens When You Don't Want the Piercing Anymore?

Body piercing is actually not a new trend. Egyptian pharaohs had pierced belly buttons. Roman soldiers had pierced nipples. Body piercing is also common among some Africans and Native Americans. It's been practiced for years by various groups of people, but it's a lot more popular now and many people are getting parts of their bodies pierced. back to top

A Piercing Procedure
The most common parts of the body to pierce are the ears, nose, belly button, tongue, nipples, eyebrows, and lips. Some people even get their genitals pierced (ouch!). Here's how it's done:
  • Piercings are done with needles. Piercing guns or other machines that aren't sterilized are not good to use because they can transmit diseases. If you're getting your ears pierced, go to a jewelry store that uses sterile, disposable, single-use clamps. If you're getting any other body part pierced, make sure the needles and other instruments used are sterilized.
  • The piercer marks the site, cleans it, then pushes a hollow needle through the skin. This process removes skin and tissue and makes room for the jewelry to be inserted.
  • The piece of jewelry is threaded through the needle and through the hole. The jewelry is usually shaped like a ring, a barbell, or a clamp, which is a curved barbell. If the tongue is being pierced, a larger barbell is put in at first so there's room for the tongue to swell.
  • Once the jewelry is in place, pressure is applied to stop any bleeding.
Instead of getting a regular piercing in their ears, some people get earlobe plugs. The piercing is done the same way as regular body piercing, but instead of an earring, a cylinder-shaped piece of clay, metal, or wood is put in the hole. Gradually, a bigger and bigger cylinder is put in until the tissue stretches out. Unlike ear piercings, which either close up or leave a tiny hole if you decide not to wear earrings, ear plugs can cause really big holes in your ears that won't go away. Just something to think about. back to top

Who Shouldn't Get Pierced
Some people have medical problems or other issues that make piercing a bad idea. Here's who shouldn't do it:
  • People who have diabetes, because they take longer to heal and are more likely to get infections.
  • People who have a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia.
  • People who get large, raised scars, called keloid scars. back to top
How to Choose A Piercing Studio
Many body piercers run good businesses and follow health and safety guidelines. But there are also many who don't. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you decide if it's the right place for you:
  • Is it clean and neat? Just like a health professional's office, the body piercing studio should be free of clutter and spotless.
  • Do you feel comfortable? If not, just leave. You don't owe them anything and it's not mean or rude to leave if you feel uneasy.
  • Does the person doing the piercing make you feel comfortable? It's important that you feel at ease with the person doing the piercing. Again, if you feel uncomfortable, just leave. back to top
Risks and Side Effects
Body piercing comes with its own set of risks. Here are some potential problems to ponder:
  • Unsterilized equipment can spread infections, hepatitis, or even HIV.
  • Nipple piercing may damage some of the milk ducts in the breast. When breastfeeding, milk may come out of the holes made by the piercing.
  • If you let a friend pierce you, you are upping your odds of getting a serious infection or even a disease like hepatitis. An amateur piercer can also cause nerve damage or scarring.
  • Most states have laws that say you have to be 18 to get a piercing without your parents' okay.
  • Wearing heavy earrings or getting a plug in your ear can leave a large hole that can't be fixed easily. The earlobe is made up of thin, fragile tissue, and once a hole is made or stretched, it's very difficult to repair. A cosmetic surgeon can try to fix it, but even if it gets repaired, you'll be left with a large and obvious scar in your earlobe. back to top
Tongue Tied: The Risks of Tongue Piercing
  • Of all the places to get pierced, the tongue is one of the most problem-prone. Your mouth contains lots of bacteria, which means that your risk of infection is higher than in other places.
  • Many dentists see chipped teeth and gum damage in their patients with tongue piercings. Tongue piercings can also cause continuous bleeding, numbness, and loss of taste. They can make chewing, speaking, and swallowing more difficult.

Puncture Perfect
  • All of the instruments used should be sterilized or thrown away after each use. Ask if there is a machine called an autoclave for cleaning reusable tools.
  • The jewelry used should be made of platinum, niobium, titanium, palladium, surgical-grade stainless steel, or gold. These metals have less of a chance of causing infection or an allergic reaction. Some other forms of stainless steel contain nickel, which causes an allergic reaction in many people.
  • The piercer should wash his or her hands before touching you, the piercing tools, or the jewelry. The piercer should wear latex gloves while doing the procedure.
  • The piercer should clean the area being pierced with an antiseptic before being piercing.
  • The more skill the piercer has, the better. Don't be afraid to ask how long he or she has been piercing people. Don't let a friend pierce you. Inexperienced piercers may cause nerve damage, heavy bleeding, and cysts. The tongue is especially prone to these problems.
  • If you have questions or concerns about the procedure, ask.
  • After the piercing, find out how to take care of it. Get detailed, written instructions on how to care for your piercing before you leave. If the piercer doesn't have something already written up, ask if he or she can write down the instructions for you. back to top
Caring for Your Piercing
If you got your ears pierced, remember how you had to clean them each night for weeks? Well, body piercings require the same kind of care, and then some. Here's how to care for your piercing and speed up the healing process:
  • Wash the piercing and the area around it with an antibacterial soap twice a day to keep it from getting infected. Then apply antiseptic ointment or lotion to the piercing. Don't use alcohol or peroxide on it—they'll just dry out the skin.
  • If there are crusts around the piercing, gently remove them while you are cleaning the piercing.
  • Don't play with the piercing while it's healing. Don't let anyone else touch it, because they could spread germs and infect the piercing.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching the piercing to keep from spreading germs and infecting it.
  • Gently turn the piercing 3 or 4 times a day so that your skin won't start to heal on the jewelry.
  • If the piercing is on a body part covered by clothes (such as the belly button), wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight-fitting clothes can rub against the piercing and make healing take longer.
  • Piercings can take up to two years to heal, depending on the body part punctured. Belly buttons can take the longest time. Here are some common healing times:
    • Tongue: 3 to 6 weeks
    • Ears, lips, and eyebrows: 6 to 8 weeks
    • Nipples: 8 to 16 weeks
    • Belly button: 9 months back to top
Is It Infected?
Even in the cleanest studios, infections can still develop. An infected piercing hurts and looks red and swollen. It may also feel hot to the touch. If you think your piercing is infected, see a health professional for treatment. She or he may prescribe an oral antibiotics. In most cases, you should keep the jewelry in while you treat the infection. In severe cases, you may have to remove the jewelry. back to top

What Happens When You Don't Want the Piercing Anymore?
In most cases, once you take the jewelry out, the hole will close up on its own. If the jewelry has been in for a long time, however, the hole might never close up. The sooner you take out a piercing, the quicker the hole will close. But there's always a chance that scar tissue will form in the spot where the jewelry was. Scar tissue looks like a bump under the skin and is pretty ugly. You might get keloid scars if you're prone to them. Being prone to them is more common in people of African and Asian descent. Keloids often can grow to a very large size. They can be very ugly and are very hard to get rid of. So be sure when you get a piercing it's something you really want to do, because you could have to live with the scars for the rest of your life. back to top

Last Modified Date: 10/16/2000
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