Some unaware of piercings’ risks

A Boynton Health Service physician said students are more educated now than ever about piercings, but problems still arise.

Thousands of University students get pierced annually, and the number of nontraditional piercings has increased steadily in recent years, said several local piercing establishments

But while several of those students said they know how to care for their piercings on a daily basis and most report only positive experiences, some said they were unaware of the potential side effects of the procedure.

“I was just told how to take care of them,” said first-year student Maria Johnson, who has multiple piercings. “I’m sure there are risks I don’t know about.”

Johnson said she was unaware of any lasting negative effects her piercings could cause.

Infection leading risk

Professional piercers and business owners said infection is the leading danger.

“Infection is a risk under a couple of circumstances,” said Derek Lowe, general manager and piercer at Saint Sabrina’s Parlor in Purgatory in Minneapolis. “One (risk) is getting pierced in an unclean environment. The piercer should always have proper awareness and training.”

“It’s also up to the client,” Lowe said. “They should follow the aftercare instructions. If they start playing with it, they’ll end up with an infection.”

Kryss Cho, a body piercer at the Ink Lab in Minneapolis, said it is difficult when dealing with infections to know what is normal and what is infected.

Cho said sore piercings are normal, as is clear discharge. Signs of infections are when it’s red or tender around the area of the piercing and warm to the touch.

“If this happens, you need to go see a health-care professional,” Cho said.

Boynton Health Service doctor notes dangers

Primary-care physician Dr. Deborah Sandberg, who consults students with infections related to piercings at Boynton Health Service, said students are more educated now than ever, but problems still arise.

Sandberg said one popular location for infection is cartilage.

“It’s mostly seen in ears and could appear in the nasal,” Sandberg said. “This is when an infection gets into the cartilage and then the cartilage loses its original form.”

She also singled out the tongue as a problem area.

“Tongue piercings can chip teeth,” she said.

When asked about complications because of piercings, Sandberg discussed keloids, which she said most students know little about.

“Some people are prone to scarring,” she said. “They can develop a keloid. This is basically a larger-than-average scar around the piercing.”

University student Samantha Peterick said that she developed a keloid when she got her eyebrow pierced.

“When I got it pierced, the piercer did not warn me about keloids,” Peterick said. “All of a sudden, this thing started growing on my eyebrow. I tried to get in touch with the piercer, but when I did, they didn’t seem to care much. I ended up using a needle to pop it. Now, it seems to always catch on things and bleed.”

Sandberg said many students, like Peterick, wait too long even when they know something is wrong with their piercings.

“Some people come in later than they should,” Sandberg said.

She said she thinks people come in later because they think doctors will take out the device. Often, though, they clean the infection with soap and water and sometimes give an antibiotic.

Today’s students better informed

Despite these risks, Sandberg said, more is known about piercings today than 15 years ago.

“People are getting good information from reputable piercing places,” Sandberg said, noting she has only seen eight to 10 infections this last year. “People have more general knowledge.”

Sophomore Emily Clow said she agrees with Sandberg’s sentiments.

“I’m really good about taking care of them,” said Clow, who has pierced her naval and tongue, and has a Monroe piercing, which is named for Marilyn Monroe’s famous beauty mark.

“I’ve had no problems,” she said.

Freelance editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]