Infected Cartilage Piercing

Cartilage piercing is a common and one of the most popular forms of body piercing. Cartilage is a hard elastic tissue present in different areas of the body, such as the nose, outer ear, etc. Ear piercing is a primitive form of body piercing, but is safe and risk free. On the other hand, cartilage piercing is not very safe and can thus be harmful.

Piercing damages the skin tissues which lead to various infections and bumps formation. Also, lack of blood supply to the area may aggravate the condition/infection. Therefore, cartilage piercing infections should be treated on time. Occurrence of non-infected bumps in cartilage piercing is normal and common. They usually heal after some time.

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Some types of cartilage piercings include helix piercing, industrial piercing, daith piercing, rook piercing, and tragus piercing etc. Signs and symptoms of infected cartilage piercing include pain, pus in the bumps, bleeding, fever, viral infection, inflammation and irritation. Infections may form in case proper precautions are not taken during cartilage piercing or if aftercare instructions are not followed as advised by the piercing professional or doctor.

Symptoms of Infected Cartilage Piercing

infected cartilage piercing

Piercing of any type is usually accompanied by symptoms like swelling, redness around the pierced spot, and pain. At times white colored fluid may ooze out of the pierced spot; this is lymphatic fluid which helps to clear out dirt and bacteria. Later, the development of a yellow colored crust after some days is an indication that the piercing has started to heal. But, this may not happen in all the cases of cartilage piercing. In some cases infection may occur. Some of the signs and symptoms of infected cartilage piercing are:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and redness
  • Irritation
  • Pus in the bumps
  • Stretching of the piercing
  • Bleeding
  • Foul smell
  • Bacterial disease
  • Inflammation
  • Migration of the piercing
  • Fever

Absence of blood vessels in the pierced area decreases the healing process, thereby increasing the risk of infections. If the infected cartilage piercing area is not treated for a long time, it can lead to formation of a permanent lump known as ‘keloid’, next to the pierced area.

Causes of Infected Cartilage Piercing

An infected cartilage piercing can result in serious health problems. Hence, the underlying cause needs to be promptly diagnosed and treated. Some of the causes of infected cartilage piercing are:

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  • When piercing guns are used to pierce the skin then soft tissue may get damaged. Also, piercing guns can cause a part of cartilage to push out, resulting in a shapeless lump on the pierced site.
  • Friction and irritation may occur due to the jewelry which then triggers formation of bumps or blisters filled with pus. Such blisters have to be cleansed and the pus needs to be removed. If the fluid is not removed, it will worsen the condition.
  • Allergenic materials may also cause infection. Use of such materials as pieces of jewelry for the pierced site can lead to eruption of boils. Sometimes, the piercings may even move from its original place and result in skin lesions and irritation. Boils can be very painful and may consist of pus or blood.
  • If wrong disinfectant solution is used, or if it is overused, then it may lead to occurrence of bumps.

Treatment of Infected Cartilage Piercing

Treatment of an infected pierced cartilage varies as per the cause. If the infection is severe then the medical expert may advise a course of antibiotics.

Minor cases can be resolved by home remedies such as:

  • Use a saline solution to clean the infection three times a day. This solution can be prepared by mixing half a teaspoon of rock salt with one cup of warm water.
  • Ibuprofen can be consumed to reduce pain
  • Intake of Zinc supplements and Vitamin C can help hasten the recovery process.

Preventive Measures

People who go for cartilage piercing need to take care so as to avoid infections. The below listed options can help prevent infections of cartilage piercings.

  • Ensure that the piercing professional is using a sterilized instrument to pierce the cartilage and is wearing clean gloves while piercing. Usually cartilage piercing should be done with needle rather than a piercing gun. Cartilage piercing with sterilized piercing needles lessens the risk of infections.
  • The piercing professional will always give instructions about all the after-care precautions and self-care guidelines. Follow them completely.
  • Touch the pierced area only after washing hands with a disinfectant soap solution.
  • Pierced ear should be cleansed with an antiseptic solution at least two times a day till the pierced area gets healed fully.
  • Pierced area should never be touched with bare hands. Unclean hands may cause infection. Also hair should be kept clean and avoid putting the phone receiver straight on the pierced ear.
  • One should not change jewelry regularly, especially in the starting month of cartilage piercing. Also avoid playing with the piercing jewelry.
  • Care should be taken while wearing clothes, one should not use alcohol, tea tree oil, or hydrogen peroxide directly on the pierced area.
  • Jewelry should be soaked in alcohol solution whenever it is removed as alcohol solution will disinfect the jewelry.
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