excerpts from: WebMD
There are risks to genital piercing, just as there are risks with any kind of piercing. What's tricky is that the degree of risk isn't really known, since piercing has proved to be a difficult practice to study.
"The possible variety of side effects is yet to be discovered," says Stirn, "and they will increase with the number of people getting pierced."
The most common side effect of piercing is infection, which can often be prevented by conscientious aftercare practices and good hygiene. However, infection should not be considered insignificant; it can spread and cause serious health problems, including sterility and potentially life-threatening conditions. If equipment isn't being sterilized at a piercing studio, the procedure has the potential to pass on any number of diseases, including leprosy, tetanus, tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV, and other STDs.
Genital piercings do pose some distinct risks of their own. More invasive kinds of piercing, such as a piercing that runs through the head of the penis, should only be done by experienced piercers if by anyone at all, according to Stirn. Such piercings can result in serious bleeding and "the risk of impotence caused by hitting the erectile tissue by mistake is simply too high," she says. Piercing the clitoris itself, rather than the clitoral hood, is also a potentially risky procedure. Some genital piercings can result in scars or a narrowing of the urethra.
While certain types of genital piercings are prone to bleeding, their advantage is that the increased blood flow makes the tissue heal faster. While a VCH or a Prince Albert can heal in four to six weeks, a pierced navel can take up to 12 months. Stirn asserts that the risks of complications are "certainly higher" with navel piercings than genital.
On the whole, the biggest dangers posed by getting pierced stem from what you don't know. Since piercers aren't very heavily regulated, you don't really know whether the person piercing you is qualified or practicing the necessary safety precautions.
"Unfortunately, some studios are still operating without adequate sterilization equipment and pierce minors without even checking I.D., which is against the law," says Angel. "Enforcement is definitely lagging."
Piercing vs. Medicine
Given the potentially serious risks, many medical organizations have issued advisories warning against the practice. And obviously, no doctor can really be enthusiastic about piercing -- viewed medically, it's either an unnecessary medical procedure or a self-inflicted injury.
"I don't think any physician could endorse what is, essentially, self-mutilation," says Shelly Ann Sekula-Gibbs, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "I always discourage it in my practice when I'm asked about it."
But Stirn argues that doctors can be more sympathetic without endorsing the practice. She also believes that the tendency to react to pierced people with horror or condescension isn't very helpful.
"Doctors need to have a neutral attitude toward pierced individuals," Stirn tells WebMD. "It can be hard because a person with a lot of piercings can be distracting, I know. But most of the people with body piercings will get them no matter what the doctor says."
In addition, there are some practical concerns for the medical treatment of people with piercings. For instance, doctors in emergency rooms should know how the basic clasps work on piercings, so that they can be removed if necessary before surgery or other procedures.
Genital piercing is a "social reality," says Stirn, and as such, we -- and especially medical professionals -- need to accept it. She's almost certainly right: Whether you're fascinated by the idea or so repulsed by it that reading this article was torture, genital piercing is probably not going away any time soon.
Here are familiar Risks from Boby Piercing
Body piercing is an invasive procedure and is not without risks. When properly performed, these risks can be minimized, and most individuals who receive their piercing from a professional piercer, and who take care of their new piercing as recommended by their piercer, will enjoy a safe and healthy piercing experience.
Risks of note include:
- Allergic reaction to ingredients of products used to clean the new piercing, or of ancillary products used in proximity to the piercing (e.g., soap, hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, antibacterial products, antiseptic medicines, makeup, hair spray, swimming pool chlorine, etc.). This risk can be minimized by cleaning the piercing as recommended by a professional body piercer (different piercers will have differing recommendations), by not contaminating the fresh piercing with irritating products, and by not swimming in chlorinated water.
- Chlorine from swimming pools may cause the pierced area to dry out, which may cause the piercing to be torn out very easily.
- Allergic reaction to the metal in the piercing jewelry, particularly nickel. This risk can be minimized by using high quality jewelry manufactured from surgical stainless steel or similar inert metals.
- Bacterial infection, particularly from Staphylococcus aureus. However, this risk is greatly reduced when the piercing is performed by a professional body piercer using best practice piercing techniques, and when appropriate steps are taken during the aftercare period to avoid infection. Blunt force piercing, such as that associated with the use of ear piercing instruments, increases the chance of a bacterial infections. For that reason, among others, piercing guns should never be used to pierce any part of the body other than earlobes.
- Parasitic and protozoan infections may occur by swimming in lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans during the healing period. The best way to reduce this risk is to avoid swimming in these locations.
- Excess scar tissue, which can be caused by improper piercing, cleansing, and stretching. This may result in loss of sensation and difficulty piercing and stretching that area of skin in the future.
- Keloid formation can sometimes occur, particularly among people who are pre-disposed to this condition through heredity.
- Trauma, usually associated with unintended entanglement of the piercing jewelry with another object. This risk is greatest for fresh piercings, but is always present. It can be reduced by using jewelry appropriate for the piercing, and covering or taping over jewelry during sports activities. Also, larger gauge piercings will tend to resist tearing better than smaller gauge piercings.
- Viral infection, particularly from hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. However, it is important to note that although hepatitis has been transmitted through the practices of ear piercing, body piercing, and tattooing, there have not been any documented cases of HIV transmission associated with these procedures (see CDC Fact Sheet: HIV and Its Transmission). As with bacterial infections, the risk of viral infection is minimized when proper piercing techniques are used, particularly by the use of autoclaved disposable piercing needles and the autoclaving of jewelry prior to installation.
- Erosion of gums (in lip and tongue piercings). In some cases, gum bleeding can be induced. In extreme cases, teeth may fall out if there isn't enough gum to hold them in place.