Doctor: Leave piercings to the professionals

By: Penne Usher, Journal Staff Writer
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Piercing body parts to adorn with jewelry is nothing new, but in the past decade more unusual parts are getting pricked, a practice not recommended by at least one local doctor. The old method of a potato and sewing needle can cause infection, hepatitis, and scarring. It's not just the do-it-yourself approach that causes health risks, it's also what is being pieced. "There are some places that you just can't disinfect because they are a mucus membrane," said Dr. Mark Vaughan, a general practitioner with the Auburn Medical Group. "For example the tongue. I've seen with horrible infections that left scarring behind." He said surgery corrected the majority of that individual's problem. Jacob Thomlinson, 22, of Rocklin, pierced his own ear. "I used an ice cube and put the needle through," he said. "It didn't hurt at all because of the ice. If I were piercing something else it would hurt a lot worse." This is a practice Vaughan warns against -- regardless of what is pierced. Vaughan said when piercing the upper ear lobe, which is cartilage, there is a higher risk of infection. "There's not much blood supply in the cartilage," he said. "That area can't fight infection and if one starts and antibiotics can't get to it because of poor blood supply." The end result could be deformed ears. Hepatitis can spread by re-using a needle or other piercing apparatus and has been documented in medical reports, Vaughan said. "People are piercing all the time in establishments and on their own," Vaughan said. "The difference is what care they take in using a sterile device to perform the procedure." Ron Cox owns Red Dragon Tattoos and Piercing in Rocklin. He's been piercing professionally for about nine years and said he's heard of individuals piercing with paper clips and other "horrific" objects. "When piercing yourself you go to someone's house, garage or bedroom and it's not a sterile environment," Cox said. "The worst thing is not just a bad piercing its some sort of horrific disease." At his studio the piercing artists use a sterilized cork and a special needle that creates a hole but doesn't remove tissue. "It heals perfectly," Cox said. "If you take the piercing out before it has healed it would look like you have had a hole." He's not fond of the gun-type piercing instruments that some mall locations use. Cox said the cleanliness can't be relied upon. "It's (usually) cleaned with only an alcohol pad," he said. "Everything we use is sterilized and it's put through an autoclave. We use single-service needles and maintain a high level of sterilization. Cox has pierced himself. "At one point I've had just about everything pierced right now down to my nipples," he said. So, what's the most popular location to poke a hole in? "People come in a lot to have their ears pierced," Cox said. "Most popular are nostril and the belly button." The Journal's Penne Usher can be reached at
Body piercing defined
Body piercing usually refers to the piercing of a part of the for the purpose of wearing in the opening created. Body piercing is a form of . The word piercing can refer to the act or practice of body piercing, or to a specific pierced opening in the body.
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