Recently I went with my friend Lizzie to get her belly button pierced at a local tattoo and piercing shop. As we were anticipating Lizzie’s turn to get her navel piercing, a girl before us was in the midst of getting her septum pierced. As we waited patiently, we suddenly heard some concerning comments from behind the curtain. What to appeared to have happened was that the girl actually passed out from the piercing. As we listened intently we could hear the girl talking inaudibly as the woman who gave her the piercing asked questions regarding her diet and if she had any water that day. I remembered when Lizzie and I were at the desk a few moments before, the receptionist said that the woman was a trained professional and had been piercing for eight years, so I thought it was unlikely to be her fault. But I couldn’t help but wonder, what exactly are the risks that revolve piercing? Even in the safest of cases, can they leave permanent damage?
Piercing has largely been a concern in the medical community for its notorious risk factors of infection. Infections that involve piercing are extremely frequent, over fifteen percent of all piercings that are performed get infected at some point. These infections seem harmless at first, but they can actually cause permanent scarring and even the loss of skin if not treated correctly. The other danger that piercing presents is much more serious. Some piercings if done incorrectly or not kept clean can lead to the development of Hepatitis C. This disease can cause minor to uncompromising difficulties within a person’s liver. It can lead to lifelong illness and even cancer.
Although these facts are daunting, many dermatologists still say that it is okay to get piercings as long as you are going to a credible practitioner. But there still are challenges in finding a well trained person to trust with piercing your body. In an observational study performed at the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health, data was collected from over 30 piercing shops that had piercers ranging vastly in experience. The study was performed in order to test the safety of varying piercing shops by the cleanliness of their tools. The samples taken from these tools would then project the likelihood of certain people getting Hepatitis C from these piercing shops, the tools were then all tested for Hepatitis C RNA.
The null hypothesis in this study would be that Hepatitis C is not transmitted via the tools used at the randomly chosen piercing establishments, and that people infected with this disease perhaps developed it in a different manner.
The study showed that out of all of the establishments tested, 12 of them had tools which carried the Hepatitis C RNA. Many of the piercers did not even know that the disease could be transmitted through piercing in the first place. The conclusive data drawn from this study reaffirmed the idea that Hepatitis C could be transmitted through body piercing.
So, before you decide to be spontaneous and get that nose piercing that mom never let you get in high school, just make sure you know the risks involved and that you are picking a place that you know is sanitary and will not give you long term negative effects.