Piercings or body piercings are procedures which involve perforating or punching holes through bodily skin, flesh and cartilage in order to create hollows through which jewelry or other objects can be inserted. The terms “piercing” and “body piercing” can either refer to the act of piercing or to the site that had been pierced or to both.
Body piercings can involve just about any external part of the body but the most popular sites are the ears (lobe, helix, scapha, navicular fossa, root of the helix, anthelix, tragus, meatus, concha), nose (nostril, septum, tip), tongue, lips (upper, lower), eyebrows, nipples, cheeks, bellybuttons, webs (between fingers and toes), teeth, and even the male and female genitals.
Piercings throughout History
Recent years have witnessed a massive resurgence of piercings around the world but there is nothing novel in the concept although plenty new in its methodology. Body piercings have been around since antiquity in a wide variety of cultures all over the world and they served many different purposes.
The historic longevity of body piercings had been uncovered from various sources. Archeology is one such source as digs have uncovered mummified bodies with pierced earlobes and it is believed that ears were pierced in order to ward off evil spirits and prevent them from plaguing the body. Another source which attests to the use of body piercings in the ancient world comes from the Old Testament where earrings are mentioned in several of its scriptures. Furthermore, countless historic accounts indicated that piercing of the ears and other parts of the body such as noses, of men and women in non-Western cultures, had been continually practiced for centuries.
The Western World (North America, Europe and Australia) had, for some unknown reasons, been slow to adopt the body piercing rituals of the rest of the world but in the early 1960s it slowly materialized when women began piercing their ears and then men in the gay, hippie, punk and gangster communities. Today, piercing of the ears in the Western World and across all its cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic communities is very common in women and quite acceptable in men. As a matter of fact, the current norm as related to body piercings stems from a wide assortment of aspects which include self-expression, identification with certain sub-cultural or sub-communal practices, conformity to specific peer groups, symbolic or iconic markings of status, religious or spiritual expressions, fashion statements as well as eroticism and sensuality.
Possible Complications of Body Piercings
Since piercings cause bleeding and they disfigure the body to some extent, the medical profession considers piercings to be an invasive form of body modification which can lead to any number of complications such as:
Allergic reactions may be experienced to any one or several of the products which are involved in the process of piercing or the pierced site afterwards. Sensitivity to the metal used in the inserted piercing jewelry, especially nickel, can also trigger allergic reactions.
Certain products such as the chlorine in swimming pools may cause the pierced area to dry out to such extent that the piercing may tear quite easily. Of course, there is always the danger of piercing jewelry becoming entangled and ripped off.
3. Bacterial infections.
Approximately ten to twenty percent of body piercings results in bacterial infections. Although most of these bacterial infections are mild and easily controllable, there have been reported cases of bacterial infections due to piercing of the tongue which culminated with fatalities.
4. Parasitic and protozoan infections.
Piercings which are still in the midst of the healing process can easily be infected by parasites and/or protozoa found in natural and non-chlorinated bodies of water such as ponds, lagoons, lakes, rivers, streams, seas and oceans.
5. Viral infections.
When and where the piercing equipment is inadequately sterilized, there is always a great chance that hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and other viral infections may be transmitted from one person to another.
Every piercing of the skin, whether deliberate or accidental, leaves some scaring. In extreme cases, scaring may cause numbness and loss of pliability. In other cases, scar tissue can grow out of control and spread beyond the “injured” site and result in keloid formations which are unsightly rubbery lesions or brightly colored shiny nodules.
7. Dental problems.
About 19 to 68 percent of lip, tongue and cheek piercings result in premature recession of the gingival tissue while 14 to 41 percent of lip, tongue and cheek piercings results in fractured teeth and worn dental enamel.
Many of the above listed complications may be greatly minimized or completely avoided with proper care, good hygiene and the use of quality jewelry made of titanium, niobium and gold or similar high quality metals. Before you get a piercing or tattoo, make sure you know all the risks involved, as well as the fact that getting it undone once you don’t like it anymore is not that simple.