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article imageThe Truth About Body Piercing: How a Botched Job Will Cost Britain's NHS Millions

By Michelle Duffy     Jun 13, 2008 in Health
It seems to be all the rage in the UK right now, yet more and more of us are going for body piercings in places where the standard of hygiene is far below what is acceptable - a fact which will cost our NHS millions due to the rise in infections
In a new report published in The British Medical Journal, a recent study has found that there has been been a significant and shocking rise in the numbers of people arriving at casualty clinics all over the UK with alarmingly serious infections due to sub standard body piercings.
Gone are the days when it was pretty radical to go and get one's ears pierced - especially men - it was frowned upon and many even found it tough to get a job if he had an earring, yet times have changed and we are starting to see the rise of many youngsters - intelligent people, who studs and hoops in everywhere orifice and flap of skin imaginable - even for someone in their thirties, I find it hard to accept.
As it stands in the UK, so far, around 1 in 10 young people have a piercing on another part of their body other than the standard earring - that's around a few million youngsters. What is perhaps even more shocking is that as much as a quarter of these people have contracted nasty and sometimes, even serious infections due to these "dodgy" piercings which were carried out in back street studios by people with dirty needles - we don't have to be reminded exactly where this subject is heading towards now.
Luckily, many youngsters have suffered only swelling and bleeding as well as infections which have been dealt with antibiotics, yet there are number which have been far worse. It is these people who have "trusted" their friends to pierce for them, behind their parent's backs, avoiding special clinics in the fear of being caught out by families or just plain turned away because they are possible too young.
These youngsters are under the impression that if it is done by someone they know, they drop the risk of infection, yet doctors and other experts believe that this is exactly the attitude which needs to be halted. Because the equipment is not sterile, the risk of contracting something as serious as hepatitis is frighteningly high.
The study which was a join project by the Health Protection Agency and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine took a group of around 10,000 young people all around the age of 16, which is the age where they can have a piercing done without informing their parents, and they were asked, as a part of the report, if they had a piercing on any other part of their body other than their ears.
The study showed that around 10% had some other piercing somewhere on themselves, with girls being more likely to have a stud or a ring somewhere other than their ears. From this number, half experienced some sort of infection, at varying levels, some also needed to be admitted into hospital as a result of their infections. It was decided that around one in five of these piercings were carried out in sub standard conditions.
Youngsters also admitted that their their own piercings in personal areas of their bodies were carried out without seeking professional help first - they were either done by themselves or by mates. Shockingly around 9% said they had piercings done in this manner.
Speaking on behalf of the report was one of the authors of the publication, Dr Angie Bone. She told BBC News that there was a deep concern over these figures and more information needed to be handed out to stop these infections ending up in the hands of medical staff.
She said that around 46% of 16-to-24-year-old girls had had a body piercing. As the figure may rise over the next generation, the burden on the Health Service will become so high, they will struggle to cope if this trend continues.
She told BBC News,
"There is a message here for the health service that body piercing is really very common and, if it remains fashionable, in the near future one in two women will have a body piercing and there will be more complications. I was surprised to find, for example, that a navel piercing can take up to 10 months to heal."
On a more serious note, there had been cases where blood-borne viruses had become an issue. Speaking on behalf of the British Liver Trust, a spokesperson told BBC News,
"It is important to remember the long-term problems that can occur, particularly if you get a piercing from a non-specialist. You put yourself at a high risk of contracting hepatitis B or C, both of which are serious, life-threatening conditions which can be fatal. You may not know you have contracted the virus until later on in life when the damage has already begun."
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