Ear & Body Piercing/Ear Lobe Piercing

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Question
I have had my left ear lobe pierced a total of 3 times now. The first time I kept the stud in for about 7-8 weeks before taking it out so that I could change it. When I tried to put the new stud in it wouldn't go through as if there was no hole there.
The same thing happened with my second piercing.
My most recent one (the other two I had a vague memory of because they were done over a year ago) I had in for about 3 weeks. One night I was laying in bed watching a movie -on the side of my piercing- and I felt it beginning to get irritated. I ignored it at first but then I started to fiddle with it, comparing each earlobe to check for swelling and the left one was significantly bigger. Eventually I got up to go to the mirror to check what was going on. The lobe was pussing a bit so I took the stud out, cleaned the lobe and tried to put the stud back in. Like all previous times it was as if there was no hole there. I concluded that it was just swollen and left it. I tried again in the morning when it was no longer swollen and the stud still wouldn't go through.
This was about a week ago now. Now all that's left is a solid ball-like thing that I can feel inside my earlobe.
What is the ball?
Why does my stud never go back in once I take it out?
Has it been infected each time?

Answer
Hi Lewis,

First a suggestion: Leave your jewelry in the piercing for much longer than you anticipate before attempting to change it. See a qualified professional piercer for a free consultation and to have the jewelry changed the first time. This can help avoid problems.

Second an observation: Your piercings may have been done with jewelry that your body does not react well to, which can cause additional healing issues and slow recovery. Safe jewelry does not have sharp edges, which may be part of the problem you have had changing the jewelry.

Now to answer your questions:
1. The ball is probably swelling from the damage and or irritation, and may be partially scar tissue. It may diminish over time.
2. The piercing is probably not entirely healed with a sturdy layer of skin inside, or your jewelry is sharp or rough, potentially damaging the delicate tissue. It is also probable from your description of the ball you felt that the area was swollen shut quickly.
3. What you describe might have been infection, it is not reasonable to determine without culturing it, but the common signs of infection are heat, pain, redness, swelling and discolored discharge.

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Brian Skellie

Expertise

I can answer questions in regards to and not limited to: jewelry safety, specifically material, shape, proportion, and related issues; aseptic technique and sterilization as it applies to piercing safety; ethical issues of technique and bedside manner; the aftercare and recovery process for piercings. *Available for consultation.

Experience

Body artist and founder of Piercing Experience (1992), http://brnskll.com/ and SciCan Authorized Dealer of STATIM Sterilizers and related infection control products http://statim.us/

Organizations
Currently serving on the APP Board of Directors as President, formerly as Global Media Director 2013-2014, International Liaison 2010-13, Treasurer 1997-99. Over fifteen years with ASTM and APP.

Publications
The Point Journal of the Association of Professional Piercers, USA Today, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta Magazine, Creative Loafing

Education/Credentials
I regularly participate and teach in many APP and related body art educational programs. I keep current certifications for OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens, First Aid, and CPR.

Awards and Honors
APP President's Award, Best Freehand Piercer, Best of Atlanta

Past/Present Clients
Tens of thousands of one on one client experiences as the founder of Piercing Experience in Atlanta, GA, USA http://www.piercing.org/ *Body jewelry design and safety expert: Member ASTM committee F04(www.astm.org)and former Member AAMI (www.aami.org) Research advisor and educator for the APP for over a decade(www.safepiercing.org) teaching advanced studio setup, sterilization and equipment management, freehand piercing, aseptic/sterile technique and much more. Distributor and Body Art expert for SciCan StatIM sterilization and infection control products. http://statim.us/ and http://piercers.com/

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