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Cartilage piercing is a relatively common procedure and many people choose to pierce either the upper ears or the middle of the nose. This penetrates through cartilaginous tissue, which may or may not be ultimately fine. There are particular risks to cartilage piercing that should be considered before the decision to pierce any cartilaginous area is made.
One very different element that is common of cartilage piercing is that cartilage does not heal on the same time frame as does piercing through skin. A person who has the lower part of the ear lobe pierced, without complications, is typically fully recovered in a couple of months. Cartilage doesn’t work this way for a number of reasons, and healing time can be expected to be two to six times as long as piercing through skin. This could mean additional months of pain, some bleeding, or other complications while the cartilage heals.
A reason that cartilage is very different from a part of the body like an earlobe is because it is not supplied with blood in quite the same way as skin is. It doesn’t have the same kind of healing mechanisms or properties as skin does, either. This means it’s highly likely that piercing will create some damage to the cartilage that doesn’t heal right away.
At even greater issue is what can occur if cartilage piercing results in infection. On occasion, there are accounts of more than one infection originating from a single source like a mall ear piercing shop. Usually these occur in context of contamination at the shop and a failure to rely on hygienic measures for ear piercing. The trouble is that treating infections in the cartilage may be much more difficult, and could mean longer treatments, more aggressive antibiotic treatments, and serious pain from an infected piercing.
Given the greater sensitivity needed when cartilage is pierced, there are some steps to follow to be certain piercing takes place under the best circumstances. First, it’s advised people don’t get this area pierced with a piercing gun, as this may cause considerable damage that lengthens healing time. A fully sterile needle piercing is considered the safest way to pierce.
Additionally, people should watch for signs of infection like pain, boils, bleeding or pus, and alert a doctor if they have they notice these. They should adhere to instructions to retain the same earrings in, without changing them, to avoid complications. Care of the piercing, as recommended by the piercer, should be followed to the letter. It may also help to choose metals for piercing that are hypoallergenic, as metal allergy can cause complications in cartilage piercing, too.
@Grivusangel -- Eeewww. Sounds gross. I used to have an upper ear piercing (stupid college kid, extra money), but I let it close for two reasons: infection and profession.
My ear got infected fairly often -- a couple of times a year -- and even though I just wore a small sapphire stud in it, I just felt it wasn't very professional. So, I let it close up. I've never regretted it. One hole in each earlobe is enough. It looks professional, and my earlobes rarely, if ever, get infected. You really have to consider these kinds of things when you do something like get a cartilage piercing.
I wouldn't get any cartilage pierced. Nearly every person I know who has had cartilage piercing has had trouble with it.
My sister has an upper ear piercing and even though she had it done by a reputable, licensed piercer, it got horribly infected and she had to go to the ER to have it drained and get antibiotics. She's just one of many I've known who have had really bad infections, especially in their ears.
I was in college with a girl who had, probably 10 piercings in one ear. She took care of her ears, but infection set in the cartilage (her lobes were fine) and her doctor thought he wasn't going to get a few of the earring studs out of her ear! It was pretty nasty. You could see all the yuckiness.
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