Keloid Complications with Cartilage Piercing

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A woman has multiple piercings on her face and ears. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

A keloid is scar tissue that grows and rises in or around a cartilage piercing. Keloids are commonly confused with hypertrophic scarring in ear cartilage piercings. Hypertrophic scarring is a temporary condition and is treated by changing the jewelry and subjecting the ear piercing to sea salt soaks. Prescriptions and surgeries from physicians, dermatologists or surgeons are the only treatments for a permanent keloid condition.

Hereditary

In some piercees, keloids are a hereditary medical condition. Piercees with close family members, such as parents or siblings, with keloids are most likely to keloid in connection with ear cartilage piercing. Piercing the ear cartilage, no matter the method, results in keloids around, inside or outside of the piercing location. Receiving a piercing with a sterilized needle from a professional body piercer that provides thorough aftercare guidelines decreases the possibility of keloid formation. The piercee, following the aftercare guidelines in addition to the professional procedure, may prevent or slow the formation of a keloid, yet this varies from piercee to piercee. Piercing guns and unprofessional tools cause additional trauma to the cartilage and lack of aftercare may aid in the growth of a keloid. Keloids form mostly at the back of the ear piercing, as this is where the piercing causes the most trauma to the skin.

Melanin and Sex

The amount of melanin in the skin and the sex of the piercee are also factors in the possibility of keloids from an ear cartilage piercing. African Americans and women are more prone to keloids from piercing, according to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine. Potential piercees are likely to be aware of a keloiding condition before having the ears pierced. If the piercee has experienced chicken pox, acne or surgery in the past, keloids will most likely form at the site of the skin trauma and indicate a predisposition to keloids from ear cartilage piercing. Piercees with past or current keloids should avoid body piercings completely.

Treatment

There is no cure for keloids and treating a keloid does not necessarily result in a keloid free piercing or ear. After removing a keloid, new keloids may appear at the ear cartilage piercing site. Topical or injected steroids, cryosurgery, lancing and silicon gel are examples of treatments for keloids. The size and symptoms of keloids, itching and shooting pains, may be reduced with treatment of the keloid. Remove ear cartilage jewelry while undergoing treatment for a keloid.

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