Complications associated with intimate body piercings

Dermatol Online J. 2018 Jul 15;24(7):13030/qt5gp333zr.


Intimate body piercings involving the nipple and genitalia have increased in prevalence in both men and women. Despite this increase, there is a deficiency in the literature regarding the short and long-term complications of body piercings, including an increased risk of infection, malignancy, and structural damage to the associated tissue. Breast abscesses associated with nipple piercing can be mistaken as inflammatory carcinoma. Male genital piercings have been associated with urethral rupture, paraphimosis, urethral obstruction, scar formation, and squamous cell carcinoma, whereas female genital piercings may lead to a higher risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. There are additional problems related to piercings during pregnancy and thereafter. Nipple piercings can hinder breast feeding by inhibiting the milk letdown reflex, increasing nipple sensitivity, and causing discomfort to the infant. Removal of genital piercings during pregnancy could introduce bacteria into the piercing tract, but retaining the piercings could theoretically hinder childbirth. Prevention of complications is critical. Patients must understand the risks of piercings and disclose relevant medical conditions to the practitioner before the procedure. The piercings should be carried out in a hygienic and sterile manner. Finally, physicians should maintain a non-judgmental attitude to encourage patients to seek medical care for complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Piercing / adverse effects*
  • Breast Diseases / etiology*
  • Breast Diseases / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Genital Diseases, Female / etiology*
  • Genital Diseases, Female / prevention & control
  • Genital Diseases, Male / etiology*
  • Genital Diseases, Male / prevention & control
  • Genitalia, Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nipples
  • Penis
  • Umbilicus