Body piercing carries health risks, report says

February 22, 2012

Health professionals need to be aware of the potential health problems caused by body piercing, a trend among an increasing number of young people today, say researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Evanston, Ill. - Health professionals need to be aware of the potential health problems caused by body piercing, a trend among an increasing number of young people today, say researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the paper details medical consequences resulting from piercings of ears, nose, mouth, nipples, navel and genitalia - and suggests ways to minimize and even prevent these complications.

The paper notes that while body piercing is fairly safe overall, bacterial infection is the No. 1 complication, affecting about 20 percent of body piercings. Other complications include allergies, loss of blood, scarring and interference with medical procedures, such as MRI, X-ray or ultrasound.

The Sun-Times quotes lead author Jaimee Holbrook, M.D., a clinical research fellow in the department of dermatology, as saying, “As piercing becomes more popular, the healthcare community should become familiar with how to remove the jewelry, in the case of an emergency situation, as well as understand piercing complications and related health risks.”

The review article was written while the researchers, along with investigators from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, were conducting a trial on technology that uses magnetic tongue studs to help quadriplegics use computers and drive their own wheelchairs. According to the Sun-Times, the Feinberg team not only reviewed the medical literature on piercings, but also visited local piercing parlors to talk with professionals and watch them work.

The paper was published in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.

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