The Perils Of Needles To the Body

Ny Times 

Published: February 1, 2005

(Page 2 of 2)

People who have piercings should also be aware that a penicillin-resistant strain of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus has cropped up in the last two years, Dr. Hammer said. Once rarely seen outside medical settings, the strain recently has been traced to group settings like sports and fitness clubs and military barracks.

In Oregon, new laws regulating piercings were drafted in response to an outbreak of an antibiotic resistant strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa in ear cartilage. Health officials traced it to a piercing gun at a jewelry kiosk. Four people were hospitalized; permanent ear deformities, including the removal of ear cartilage, resulted.

Experts warn that such infections are more common -- and more difficult to treat -- in ear cartilage because of its limited blood supply. They also advise against the use of piercing guns that crush flesh rather than lacerate it and that cannot be properly sterilized.

Unlike most tattoos, which scab over and heal in one to two weeks, piercings can pose problems in the long haul. Nipple piercings that go too deep have damaged tissue and led to problems in breast-feeding after the jewelry was removed.

Stud earrings can become embedded in nipples, navels or elsewhere when the body tries to ''heal over'' the piercing site. Clothing can catch on navel jewelry, causing irritation, infections and tears.

Keloids, the overgrowth of scar tissue, can also cause disfigurement, including tumorlike growths.

Some styles of mouth and genital piercing carry other dangers. Dr. Jay Gohel, a dentist at the Smile Institute in Manhattan, said tongue rings could cause trauma and breakage of the upper teeth, including the lingual cuspids and molars.

''Every time you move the tongue it's banging on the teeth,'' Dr. Gohel said. ''It's like tapping on glass over and over again. It finally breaks.''

He said he had restored several teeth broken in this way.

Dr. Gohel and other experts have also seen infections from tongue piercings. One study reported on the case of a 25-year-old man with a potentially fatal disease of the heart's inner lining that was traced to his tongue piercing. Many people use antibiotics as a preventive measure before dental surgery because of congenital heart disease, heart defects or repaired heart valves. Dr. Nieca Goldberg, chief of women's cardiac care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said that people in high-risk categories might not realize that they should also take protective medication before piercings.

''You may think of a piercing as cosmetic, but if you have mitral valve prolapse, a heart murmur or other conditions that require antibiotics before dentistry, you should be treating a piercing the same way,'' Dr. Goldberg said.

Many middle-aged doctors seem unaware that tongue and genital piercing are often done for additional stimulation in sex, oral sex in particular. Genital piercings not only run the risk of tearing condoms, but they may also tear or abrade the flesh during sexual intercourse, allowing disease transmission through blood or other body fluids.

While most piercings will close up or leave minimal scarring over time once jewelry is taken out, tattoo removal is often costly and painful. At the Skin Institute of New York, removing a tattoo takes 6 to 10 sessions, at a cost of $300 to $800 each, said Dr. Lance H. Brown, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine.

He uses a Q-switch laser to break down the pigment in the tattoo ink. The switch allows him to adjust the laser wavelength to match the wavelength of the pigment he is attacking. ''The laser explodes particles of ink, then the body's macrophages come and essentially eat up the debris,'' Dr. Brown said. The sessions stretch over weeks because the body can only absorb so much waste at one time.


The Perils Of Needles To the Body - -


Dr. Jay Gohel was awarded America's Top Dentists in 2012 by the Consumers Research Council of America.


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