Piercings in general, and navel piercings in particular, are gaining popularity in Western societies. A pierced navel, particularly popular with young women, can be a visually pleasing way to show off a flat stomach or to commemorate a special life event or experience. However, navel piercings -- like other piercings -- may develop keloid scarring in susceptible individuals.
A study in the "British Medical Journal," published in June 2008, found that one in 10 English adults had a piercing in a place other than the ear lobe. Women were found more likely than men to have a body piercing -- and one third of those English adults who had piercings in places other than ear lobes reported having a navel piercing. A navel piercing is typically placed through the flap of skin directly above the belly button, with a curved piece of jewelry passing through the piercing and sitting both above and over the navel.
Keloids are raised areas of skin caused by the overgrowth of scar tissue. A range of skin injuries can cause keloids to form -- some of the most common causes of keloids include burns, chickenpox, acne, wounds, surgical incisions, vaccinations and piercings. You may have a genetic predisposition to keloids, which are often observed to run in the family. Additionally, keloids are generally more common among younger females and individuals of African heritage.
Keloid Treatment Options
If you have a navel piercing and a keloid scar forms, several treatment options are available. However, keloids may resolve and disappear without treatment. Typical treatments for keloids include freezing, pressure, injections of corticosteroids, laser treatment, radiation or surgical removal. Keloid removal may not be permanently effective and, in fact, surgical keloid removal carries the risk of possibly causing a larger keloid scar to form.
Writing in the "European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology" June 2010 issue, Nicolas Kruger reports an increase in the number of pregnant women with body piercings seen in the past 20 years. Kruger reports that navel piercings may cause stretch marks during pregnancy, as the area around the navel and stomach distends. This means that women may be more prone to developing keloid scars during pregnancy. For this reason, many women choose to remove pierced navel jewelry during pregnancy.
Practice thorough aftercare of your navel piercing to reduce the risk of infection, tearing or scarring. Clean your navel piercing once or twice per day, using antibacterial soap. Make sure your hands are clean when handling your piercing or jewelry. A particular problem with navel piercings is the ability of clothing to snag and irritate the piercing -- this can lead to irritation or scarring. Keep clothing waistbands and belts away from your navel piercing site during the healing period to reduce the likelihood of keloid scarring.