The fashion trend of piercing body parts other than the earlobe has risen in the past 15 years, according to Donna I. Meltzer, M.D. The nipples are one of the locations chosen by both men and women for piercing, but you should be aware of the risks of nipple piercing before proceeding.
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Nipples can be pierced using a piercing gun to force the nipple ring through the tissue or using a needle to create a channel to insert the nipple ring. Either method calls for introducing a foreign metal object directly into the skin and can result in a viral infection. A worst case scenario can result in the transmission of hepatitis B or C or even HIV if infected equipment was used for the piercing. Before piercing, speak to your doctor about any precautions you can take to protect yourself from infection, and watch for any changes in the nipple tissue that may indicate infection after piercing. It can take two to four months for the piercing to completely heal.
If you have a sensitivity or allergy to certain metals and introduce them into your tissue, you can develop a rash called contact dermatitis. The rash may not appear until days or weeks after the piercing and may remain for weeks even if you remove the nipple ring. Because the skin is red and irritated, many people mistake a rash for an infection. You should see your doctor to ensure a proper diagnosis. If the doctor determines you have contact dermatitis, you should immediately remove the nipple ring and treat the rash with cortisone cream. Do not re-insert the nipple ring until you have determined a type of metal you can wear without causing an allergic reaction.
Breast cellulitis is an infection that results from bacteria introduced to the pierced area. Left untreated, cellulitis can develop into a painful abscess and cause you to run a fever. If the abscess does not respond to antibiotic treatment, it will have to be surgically drained by placing an incision across the main part of the abscess and allowing the pus to drain from the body.
The channel created by the piercing may become infected if it does not properly drain while breastfeeding. To help avoid infection, remove the nipple ring during breastfeeding but be aware that milk may squirt from the channels. If you wish to leave the nipple ring in place while breastfeeding, make sure the nipple ring is securely tightened before each breastfeeding session to prevent the infant from swallowing or choking on the jewelry.