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How to Drain a Body Piercing Bump

by
author image Dr. Tanya Kormeili, MD, FAAD, Dermatologist
Dr. Tanya Kormeili is a nationally recognized, board-certified dermatologist. She is a clinical professor in dermatology at the UCLA School of Medicine, as well as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Kormeili has appeared on national television, has been featured in "Dermatology Times" and has been quoted extensively in the media as an expert.
How to Drain a Body Piercing Bump
A woman dispalying her tongue piercing. Photo Credit Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Overview

If you develop a bump at the site of a body piercing, draining it should never be a "do-it-yourself" endeavor. A bump, especially if the site turns red, swollen or painful, or drains pus, could indicate a staphylococcus infection or other bacteria. See your doctor immediately; she might choose to drain the bump and send the fluid for testing to determine the type of bacteria present. In the meantime, she might start you on an oral antibiotic.

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Causes

Any time you create a wound in the skin like a body piercing, you run the risk of developing an infection. The risk increases if the equipment used to create the opening isn't scrupulously cleaned and sterilized between uses.

Treating Infection

If the bump around a body piercing produces pain, swelling, oozing or a foul odor, you may have an infection. The risk increases if the symptoms persist or if the redness spreads of redness or turns dark red or purple and you develop a fever. You need antibiotics in addition to draining by your doctor to treat an infection. Sending the fluid for evaluation for the type of bacteria it contains is very important if the infection doesn't improve. A culture and sensitivity of the fluid determines the bacteria present as well as which antibiotics can effectively treat it.

Treating Inflammation

A reddened bump doesn't always mean infection. In some cases, inflammation can develop at the site from irritation from the piercing rather than infection. With inflammation, the redness is usually localized, improves with time, doesn't spread and doesn't have a foul smell. Draining an inflamed bump won't help at all, since it doesn't contain infected material. Injecting the bump with cortisone often helps reduce inflammation, although you might need more than one treatment, depending on the size of the inflamed area.

Potential Complications

Trying to drain an infected site yourself could make an infection much worse, especially if you use a contaminated tool and introduce even more bacteria into the wound. A serious infection that enters the blood stream can be fatal. Let your doctor determine whether a bump that develops at the site of a body piercing needs draining. Only a medical professional should perform this procedure.

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