Getting your ear pierced isn't really a big deal anymore. Heck, even nose piercings are pretty tame fare in contemporary Western society. It's pretty normal nowadays, and thus you might assume that there are no major health risks anymore. Surely we would have ironed out all the kinks by now, right? Right?
Unfortunately, even the most mundane of piercings can have terrifying side effects. On rare occasions, they can even be deadly. Between infections, bloodborne pathogens, and your body just generally hating having metal put in it, when getting pierced goes wrong it can be a life-altering ordeal. Like getting a tattoo, this increasingly mainstream form of body modification can have deadly consequences.
Please keep in mind that most of these medical side effects of piercing are incredibly rare. The vast majority of people who get their ears or noses pierced face no major problems besides a little pain and irritation (and getting hassled by their parents, of course). As long as you find a safe environment and an experienced piercer, things will probably be fine. That being said, things can go wrong and it's important to know the risks before getting pierced.
A few days after her ear piercing, Grace Etherington, a 15-year-old dancer from England, began to experience tingling in her toes. A doctor initially dismissed her concerns, but several days later, after experiencing difficulty walking, she was rushed to the hospital.
The numbness continued to spread, and she soon found moving and breathing difficult. Doctors eventually recognized her case as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a very rare autoimmune disorder that can lead to complete paralysis. The underlying cause of GBS is unknown.
While the illness is usually triggered by viral infection, it can also be set into motion through surgery or minor procedures such as piercings. By May 2010 Etherington had almost fully recovered and was able to once again dance with her troupe, though she suffered some ongoing fatigue.
A keloid is a type of scar formed by overgrown tissue. Sufferers of keloid scars may feel pain, itchiness, and lumpiness in the skin texture, and the site may look puffy and discolored in comparison with your normal skin tone. This type of scar, which can develop with piercings but is not typically dangerous, may require medical treatment to remove. Though a keloid scar may be treatable, there is no guarantee of complete reversal.
A poorly cleaned piercing gun can lead to a hepatitis infection. If blood seeps into the gun's mechanisms and is not properly cleaned, pathogens may be passed to another recipient later on. For this reason, many public health organizations warn against visiting underground or unlicensed tattoo and piercing establishments.
While most procedures performed by piercing professionals are safe and reliable, in some rare cases, a piercing of the septum - the cartilage dividing your nose on the inside - can lead to a septal hematoma. This can progress to a condition called "saddle nose," which is a flattening of the bridge. Also known as a low nasal bridge, it should be treated as soon as possible to ensure a full recovery.