Elaine Davidson was not satisfied with the Guinness World Record for having the most piercings in 2000, when she was found to have 462 piercings all over her body – 192 of which were only on her face. No, she went one step further and broke her own record in 2001 with a total of 721 piercings.

But even that wasn’t good enough for the Brazilian nurse, who claims she hates piercings. Amazingly, in February 2009, Elaine was found to have a whopping 6,005 piercings, including more than 500 in her genitals, both internally and externally. The total weight of all of her piercings today is over six pounds of hardware – causing her to ring when she walks and go off metal detectors in airports.

“I don’t like getting pierced, but to break the record you have to reach a high level,” Elaine said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph of Edinburgh, Scotland, when she helped open a new piercing studio. “My family doesn’t even like tattoos or piercings. But I’m happy. I decided to change myself and be myself.”

If you want to be yourself — or be like Elaine — you might want to consider getting any part of your body pierced, be it your ears, your tongue, or even your genitals. But before you do this, make sure it’s the right decision for you — and get the procedure done safely and correctly.

Many people rave about the piercings they get, believing that they make them infinitely more attractive, both physically and aesthetically. But some people get a lot more than just a cute little button in their belly button or clitoral hood – like an infection, excessive bleeding, keloid scarring, or worse…

All types of piercing carry an inherent risk of disease if the equipment is not properly sterilized (see below), which can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as hepatitis B and C and HIV, as well as tuberculosis and syphilis. Piercings can also cause an infection, sometimes a systemic infection such as sepsis, as well as skin splitting and scarring. Allergies to specific types of jewelry can also be problematic.

Popular piercings

The most popular types of piercings are explained below, along with the risks associated with them:

Navel piercing. The upper bend of the abdomen is pierced with a needle. This can take up to a year to fully heal due to bending etc so please be patient. RISK: Jewelry can get stuck to clothing and take even longer to heal, causing an infection. Sometimes there may be excessive bleeding and/or nerve damage.

Ear piercing. The only piercing that can be done safely with a piercing gun. RISK: Allergies to certain jewelry can occur, so use stainless steel studs only in the beginning and be sure to follow the aftercare instructions carefully.

Mouth piercing. Usually the lip area, either around the lip or on the lip itself. It takes about a month to heal. Piercings are given specific names, called bites, depending on the location of the piercing on the lip. RISK: May increase the risk of periodontal disease or gum disease. May also increase the chance of tooth chipping.

nose piercing. Nostril piercing is the most common and second only to the ear piercing. Nasal septum and bridge piercings are considerably less common – and less beautiful too! RISK: Placing the wrong type of jewelry in your nose can cause pain. Because the nose is full of bacteria, it is easy to contract an infection. And there’s also the danger that you could inhale a stud into your lungs.

Eyebrow piercing. Usually the piercing is perpendicular to your eyebrow line. Rings or dumbbells are used. RISK: If placed incorrectly, nerves in the face can be severed.

cheek piercing. Often called the Madonna, the Crawford and the Monroe, to look like the beauty spots or birthmarks on these famous people. RISK: Cheek piercings can contribute to gum disease and infections are common.

nipple piercing. Suitable for both men and women, one nipple or both. RISK: The nipple can harden and cause scarring, which can eventually lead to problems breastfeeding (if you’re a woman, that is).

Female genital piercing. There are several types available, depending on the type of clitoris you have (hooded or protruding) and whether you want an internal or external piercingRISK: May cause condoms to split and increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Clitoral or triangle piercings are not always recommended, as they can lead to loss of clitoral sensation. Safer are labia and inner labia, as well as the clitoral hood.

Male genital piercing. There is a plethora of male piercings either through the head of the penis, the foreskin, on the back of the testicles, through the shaft etc. Ask and you shall receive. RISK: May cause condoms to split and increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Nerve damage can also occur, resulting in a loss of sensation in the penile area.

Guide to a good piercing

ALWAYS ensure that the facility is licensed by the Board of Health as a piercing studio, that their credentials are up to date, and that they are members of professional piercing organizations.

ALWAYS ensure that the environment is clean and hygienic, that the equipment is up-to-date and that the staff is willing to answer all your questions courteously and competently. Tools should be sterilized in an autoclave and traceability should be performed at least monthly. The piercing area must be sterile and kept spotlessly clean after each piercing.

ALWAYS ensure that disposable sterile gloves are worn throughout the procedure. Ask your piercer to change into new gloves when he or she leaves the room to do something else.

ALWAYS use non-corrosive metal jewelry for your first piercing. Stainless steel is usually a good choice.

ALWAYS be aware of proper aftercare procedures. You should be given material to take home and read again, as there is often too much information to take in at once. It is important to follow it to the letter.

ALWAYS have a parent or guardian with you if you are under 18 if the law in your state requires you to be of a certain age to have a specific piercing. Piercing studios that don’t enforce state laws and ask for proof of age cannot be trusted.

Body piercing can be safe and worry-free in most cases. Most piercings can be reversed simply by removing the jewelry, although scars may remain. If you decide this is the route for you, play it safe and choose a safe place. If you’re not sure, then leave. Don’t gamble with your looks – or your health.

Sarah Matthews is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find a healer at  Yodle Local  or more articles about  health and medicine  in the Yodle Consumer Guide.



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