Ludwig got your tongue? It may be complications from that piercing
March 12, 2003
You’re near death. Tongue hanging out. Saliva dripping to the floor.
Too much to drink? Rat poison?
How about Ludwig’s Angina? Your tongue swells to the point that it blocks off your airway.
As you try to moan: Why did this happen to me? You realize: You got your tongue pierced.
For Dr. (Maj.) Martin Curry — an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany — the incident is all too real.
Curry was called to the emergency room last fall to treat a patient suffering from Ludwig’s Angina. Curry and a medical team had to cut into an airman’s throat and insert a wire to guide a breathing tube down his throat.
Think “ER,” but with real doctors.
The practice of piercing body parts has become a fad, and young servicemembers are getting into the action, said Master Sgt. Tim Delaney, the first sergeant for the 86th Mission Support Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
“Servicemembers are going to express themselves,” Delaney said. “Some feel not being able to pierce their body takes away their individuality.”
But there are risks, Curry said.
One in four people who get body piercings experience some complications, said Dr. Myrna Armstrong, a registered nurse and professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
A big area of concern is the “pyramid of sensitivity” — from the corners of the mouth to the top of the nose, Curry said. Mouth, tongue and nose piercings fall within this area and are dangerous because blood infections go straight to the brain.
“There are no heart valves between the pyramid area and the brain, so people could go blind or get a brain infection,” Curry said.
In addition to the health risks, body piercing jewelry can be a medical nightmare, Curry said.
People who show up at the hospital are told to remove all body piercing jewelry. When people do not remove all the jewelry (something that happens too often), they may get shocked and sustain electrical burns and scars.
Often, people discover they cannot remove the jewelry before an operation because it’s stuck.
“Sometimes if we can’t remove (the jewelry), we cut it out,” said Dr. (Maj.) Elizabeth Brill, the obstetrics and gynecology consultant for Europe Regional Medical Command.
Getting a piercing? Consider this:
The tongue is susceptible to all the normal health risks from piercing, but since it remains surrounded by fluid, contains two main nerves and houses the taste buds, extra care should be taken.
Potential health problems from tongue piercings are:
Loss of tongue movement from nerve damage.Inability to taste food from taste bud damage.Bacterial infection from food particles.Jewelry chipping teeth.Choking on swallowed jewelry.Genitals
Piercing sensitive genital areas — a popular trend — poses even bigger (yeah, dream on guys) problems, said Dr. (Maj.) Elizabeth Brill, the obstetrics and gynecologist consultant for Europe Regional Medical Command in Germany.
Due to numerous nerves in the area, piercing could lead to long-term pain, numbness or a complete loss of feeling in the genital area.Scarring and infections may lead to permanent infertility.Increased risk of transmitting sexual diseases during healing period.Trauma and ripping of delicate skin tissue during sexual intercourse.Jewelry may cause condom breakage, resulting in increased risk of pregnancy and transmission of sexual diseases.Nipples
Piercing the nipples carries additional concerns for women, and mothers should never breast-feed with jewelry still inserted in the nipple.
Nipple piercing may cause:
Loss of feeling.Hyper scarring, or overactive scarring at the pierce site. If breast tissue scarring becomes extensive, women may lose the ability to breast-feed.Breast-feeding mothers with pierced nipples face the risk of infection from their babies.Nose/upper ear
Nose and upper ear piercing may cause: