Healthy living

Potential health risks of body art

Whenever you consider any kind of body art you need to remember there is always a risk of infection. Even something as straightforward as ear piercing carries this risk.

Physical risks

There are a number of physical risks associated with body art. These can include:

  • scarring
  • rejection (where the body pushes a piercing out)
  • embedding (where skin grows over the piercing)
  • tearing
  • nerve damage
  • excessive bleeding.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that your body art may be permanent and you may regret it in the future.

Bacterial infections

There are also numerous bacterial infections that can be spread through poor hygiene standards or by you not following your aftercare instructions.

Such infection can damage the appearance of your body art and even become life threatening.

Blood-borne viruses

If the equipment used in the body art procedure is contaminated with infected blood, there is a risk that you could contract a blood-borne virus. This could include:

Other potential risks

In addition to infection, some body art – depending on its type and location – carries other serious risks.

Mouth, lips and tongue piercings

Risks can include:

  • potential blocking of the airway or difficulty breathing due to swelling
  • difficulty speaking or chewing
  • possible oral surgery to retrieve lost or submerged objects within the tongue tissue
  • mouth irritation or damage to teeth and gums if the wrong jewellery is used
  • damage to nerves in the tongue, which can in turn lead to:
    • swelling
    • airway obstruction
    • increased amount of saliva
    • permanent numbness
    • loss of taste.

Tongue splitting

Risks can include:

  • speech impediment (disruption to normal speech)
  • numbness
  • loss of taste.

Eyebrow piercings

This can damage the nerves responsible for eyelid movement.

Nipples piercing

A risk associated with nipple piercing is the inability to breastfeed.

Piercings of the skin’s surface (neck, wrist or forearms) or beading  (three dimensional body art)

There is a risk that the skin tension will put pressure on the jewellery, causing it to be rejected (pushed out) of the skin.

More information


Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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