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 would 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, blood borne 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 some of these medical side effects of piercing are incredibly rare. The vast majority of people who get their ears or nose 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.
After all, you might want to think twice about what counts as a "safe" piercing.
A few days after a routine ear piercing, Grace Etherington, a 15-year-old dancer from London, began to experience tingling in her toes and sensations of weakness. Doctors 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 of 2010 she was fully recovered and was able to once again dance with her troupe, though she was warned of ongoing fatigue.
A Keloid is a type of scar made of cartilage that forms due to an infection. Sufferers of keloid scars may feel pain, itchiness, and lumpiness in the ear's skin texture, and the ear may look puffy and discolored in comparison with your normal skin tone. This type of scar, fairly common with ear and nose piercings, is long-lasting and may require serious medical treatment to repair. 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 unwittingly seeps into the gun's mechanisms and is not properly cleaned, pathogens may be passed to another recipient later on. Toronto, Canada, had 537 recorded cases of hepatitis C in 2011. Of those cases, an astounding 147 cases involved piercing or tattoos.
While most procedures performed by piercing professionals are safe and reliable, in some rare cases, the septum––the area dividing your nose on the inside––can collapse after piercing. Should this occur, the middle and front of the nose are flattened and pushed upwards, bringing them uncomfortably close to the face in some areas. A septum collapse can also create difficulty breathing. The condition is often known as "saddle nose" and requires serious cosmetic surgery to repair.