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  Getting Your Ears Pierced? - Learn About Possible Complications First.

Getting Your Ears Pierced?

Learn About Possible Complications First

By Richard Thomas, MD, FRCPC

Ear piercing has a long history starting in antiquity. It is still very popular with women, as well as men, and has become more common in children. The style of ear piercing seems endless; it's possible to have either rings or studs, they can be placed into one or both ears, with an apparent significance to which ear is used. There is a status and a kudos which this can bring to many sub groups. The piercing can take place by penetrating the skin, or even the cartilage.

There are a number of different techniques and it can be done by friends or 'professionally'. Techniques include; the needle method, a staple gun or sharpened stud.

Complications From Ear Piercing

There are a number of complications that can develop.


  • Bacterial infections such as staphylococcus can occur as a contaminant. This is more common in those with Atopic eczema. Patients with heart valve disease need to be careful not to introduce bacterial infection into the blood stream and potentially infect the heart.
  • When the cartilage is pierced a specific bacterial infection with a bacteria called Pseudomonas can occur.
  • There is a risk if transmitting viral hepatitis from patient to patient through the instruments.
  • Read more about bacterial infections.


  • The piercing through the cartilage can be associated with inflammation in the cartilage.


  • Blood clots can form because of local internal bleeding in the ear.

Foreign Body Reactions

  • Granulomas and foreign body reactions can occur to the gold in the rings or if small pieces of metal are left in the skin.

Keloid Scarring

  • This is common especially in darker skin.
  • These are smooth, firm growing, unsightly scars that grow beyond the site of injury. They can be difficult to treat.
  • Excising them usually leads to even bigger scars. These scars can be painful.
  • Most often they are at their biggest behind the ear lobe.

Allergic Reactions

  • By far the most common allergy in women is to the metal nickel. Gold is a much less common allergen. It is also possible to become allergic to the topical cleansers, antibiotics, and antiseptics that are used to prepare for the procedure. Check-out Patient portal for Eczema for more information.

Other Considerations

  • Heavy rings will pull down and tear the ear lobe giving a split lobe. These need surgical repair if the person wants it fixed.

These are all factors that you should take into account before getting your ears pierced. Having the procedure done in a hygienic environment, with sterilized equipment and caring for your ears properly afterwards, are important factors in ensuring that you do not get a complication.

About the author:

Richard Thomas, MD, FRCPC is Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.