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What Are the Risks of Having Your Ears Pierced?

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Updated June 19, 2014

Question: What Are the Risks of Having Your Ears Pierced?
Answer:

While getting ears pierced is very common, it does involve some serious risks. The risk of infection is not uncommon, especially if proper hygiene is not followed.

Symptoms of infection include redness and irritation at the site, oozing of pus or fluid, (especially if it has a foul odor), and fever and decreased blood pressure in very severe cases. If the infection is localized to the ear lobe it is called perichondritis. However, if severe enough, the infection can sometimes enter the bloodstream. This is called sepsis and, though the risk of it is low, it can develop into a deadly condition called septic shock .

The risk of infection is greater when the ear cartilage, as opposed to the ear lobe, is pierced. As cartilage has less blood flow, infection-fighting white blood cells are less able to do their job.

Other risks of having your ears pierced include the allergic reaction to the jewelry used and scarring. Typically, if the earring is removed, the hole will heal but occasionally will leave a scar. In the case of individuals who are predisposed to develop keloid scar tissue, the scarring can be disfiguring and may even require plastic surgery.

While these risks should not be taken lightly, it should be noted that they make up a small percentage of cases.

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