Now-a-days one in ten people in England has a piercing somewhere on their body, but the majority of these people are unaware of the risks involved from having a piece of metal through their flesh.
The first study to examine the complications from body art has taken place and showed that more than a quarter of people have complications and that one in 100 was admitted to hospital.
The survey of 10,000 people in England found more than 1000 people had a piercing, and that women were three times more likely to have one than men. The belly button piercing was most popular for females, with a nipple piercing most common for men.
Unsurprisingly, piercing was found to be most common in the 16-24 age groups, with them most likely to suffer complications like swelling, bleeding and infection. The study found tongue piercing was the most risky.
Serious complications involving hospitalisation mostly occurred with piercings performed by non-specialists rather than in a hygienic tattoo parlour of specialist piercing shop.
The authors of the study, by public health specialists from the Health Protection Agency and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned that the growth in the popularity of piercings, with the associated complications, “could place a significant burden on health services for many years”.
Fortune Ncube of the Health Protection Agency, one of the researchers, said: “This is the first study to look at the prevalence and complications of what has become a popular piece of body art. It is vital that anyone considering a piercing ensures that they go to a reputable piercer to reduce the possibility of having problems. Your piercer should tell you how to look after the piercing afterwards and this is important to reduce the likelihood of infections.”
He added: “If piercing remains fashionable, almost half of the female population might eventually have a piercing somewhere other than their earlobes. If this trend continues, to avoid complications and the burden on the health service that these could bring, it is vital to continue raising awareness among piercers, their clients and health professionals about the importance of good hygiene and public safety.”
Although no reported cases have been seen in the UK piercing carries a theoretical risk of infection with hepatitis B and C and HIV from the use of contaminated instruments. The authors suggest that “people may be becoming more adventurous” with regard to riskier piercings like lip or tongue.
In 2004 a study found 62 out of 64 dentists in Lancashire had treated patients with lip or tongue piercings in the previous 12 months. Another study found that 95 per cent of GPs in Bury and Rochdale had seen a patient with piercing-related problem.