How to treat an infected cartilage piercing



A cartilage piercing is a penetrating tiny hole on the higher regions of the ear. The ear part is primarily the preferred location because it has a lower risk compared to other parts of the body. It is commonly known as“ear piercing” or earsplitting.

Different parts of the ear lobe like antitragus, conch, daith, helix, rook and snug can be pierced too. There are people who like a nostril piercing. The piercing is done in the high part of the nostril.

A cartilage is a hard-flexible tissues found mostly on the nostril, ear region (underneath the rook of the ear part), the neck area, and some parts of the forehead. Many people have piercings as a way of expressing their character and personality. (1)

Infection of cartilage piercing

About 34% rate of cartilage piercing has a possibility of getting infected. The infection is caused by the Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogens. Infected cartilage piercing should be treated right away to avoid further infection, which could worsen the condition. The common reasons for infected cartilage piercing are:
  • Use of non-sterile equipment for piercing.
  • Not observing sterile techniques such as touching the pierced site without wearing gloves.
  • Wearing of very tight clothes and jewelries, which could restrict the flow of blood, making you vulnerable to infection.
  • Poor hygiene, making you susceptible to infection.
  • Used of substandard piercing equipment such as fancy jewelry.
  • Swimming in dirty water.
  • Harbored bacteria in the hospital or so-called nosocomial infection.
  • Improper piercing techniques (2, 3)

Image 1 : An infected cartilage piercing on the ear region characterized by redness and swelling.
Photo Source : heydoctor.org


Figure 2 : A severe infection of the cartilage piercing. There are multiple piercings and the infection is severe.
Picture Source : www.inkdoneright.com

 

Signs and symptoms of infected cartilage piercing

  • There is a noticeable redness and swelling on the affected part.
  • The infected part and its surrounding tissues are tender to touch.
  • The patient complains of severe pain.
  • There could be some discharges, which are yellowish to greenish in color.
  • hyperpyrexia (a very high fever)
  • bleeding
  • formation of crust or scab on the surface (4)

Secondary complications of infected cartilage piercing include the following:
  1. formation of abscess
  2. Sepsis (infection in the blood)
  3. Boils
  4. Hepatitis B or C
  5. Hypertonic disfiguring
  6. Keloid formation
  7. Mental Sensitivity (5)

How to treat an infected cartilage piercing

Before choosing the best treatment remedy for infected cartilage piercing, it is important to know the root cause of the problem. Infected cartilage piercing can be treated using a combination of medical remedies and home remedies. The recommended treatments include the following:
  • Antibiotics – Antibiotics are very good at treating infection, especially cartilage piercing infection. A medical practitioner will thoroughly assess the infected part to verify if the infection is caused by a bacteria. However, ordinary antibiotics may not work due to restricted blood supply in the cartilage area. A stronger antibiotics should be used.
  • Warm compress – To increase the blood supply in the cartilage, a warm compress should be applied. It would help a lot if you are going to prepare a mixture of warm water and sea salt. Basically, you will have a saline solution. To further boost the circulation of blood to the infected part, you have to eat nutritious foods and avoid bad vices such as smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Anti-bacterial ointments – Do not just resort to ordinary ointment. Before applying any ointment on the infected part of the body, you have to make sure that it is safe and effective. To be sure, you need to seek the approval of your doctor prior to using any types of ointments. Keep in mind that the ointment has a direct impact on the draining process, which could unfortunately slow down the healing process. (6, 7)

Is it necessary to remove the jewelry if the piercing gets infected?

Your instinct will tell you to remove the jewelry once you notice the signs of infection. Well, this is a wrong move. The jewelry can actually help in the draining process and so you shouldn’t remove it. If you remove the jewelry, it could close up the pierced channel and an abscess will form.

There will be pain and swelling along with hardening and darkening of the surrounded tissues. If the infection gets severe, you should immediately see your doctor or at least a professional piercer. The piercing will only be removed if there is a severe destruction of the tissues surrounding the piercing site. (8)

 

Proper way of cleaning an infected cartilage piercing

The cartilage does not have that much supply of blood, which requires it more time to heal. To somehow hasten the healing process, you should observe proper hygiene and proper care. Keep the piercing site clean at all times.

When cleaning the piercing site, you should use a saline solution. You can create your very own saline solution by mixing warm water and sea salt. You have to be very gentle when cleaning the area. Make sure you thoroughly yet carefully remove the dead tissues, debris, dirt, pus, and foreign object. You might also want to consider using antibacterial soap. (8)

 

How to prevent cartilage piercing infection?

  • Be very gentle with your cartilage piercing. The piercing site is an open wound and it definitely takes time to heal. Hence, you have to make sure you keep it clean to prevent infection. Clean the piercing site with a saline solution or an antibacterial soap. If you have a sensitive skin, then you should use gentle soap and wash the piercing site two times a day. Rinse and pat dry using a disposable paper product. Do not use cloth as it can harbour harmful microorganisms.
  • As much as possible, you should avoid being exposed to substances that might cause infection to the pierced site. Keep your clothing clean at all times. If the piercing site is on the ears, then you have to be very mindful when it comes to using telephone and pillowcase. See to it that anything that gets in contact with the piercing site is clean.
  • Avoid putting cosmetics near the pierced site. Before using any cosmetic products, you have to make sure that the piercing site is completely healed. (9, 10)
References:
  1. http://www.allhealthsite.com
  2. www.livestrong.com
  3. http://medmum.com
  4. http://www.allhealthsite.com
  5. http://www.lightskincure.org
  6. http://www.nhs.uk
  7. http://mrdoctor.org
  8. http://www.medhealthdaily.com
  9. http://www.skin-artists.com
  10. www.healcure.org