Why Does My Nipple Piercing Hurt
Pierced nipples have long been associated with eroticism, sensuality, and even fetishism — but has anyone ever thought that they could also cause discomfort? If you’ve got an irritated piercing or infection, chances are your nipple is hurting. And if it’s sore enough, there aren’t many things more painful than having to look at yourself in the mirror while trying to sleep at night. Luckily, though, most of the time your pierced nipple can heal itself. But what causes this pain, anyway?
First off, let’s talk about irritations versus infections. You might think that if you’re experiencing pain, then you must have an infection. However, just because your piercing hurts doesn’t mean you have an infection. Irritation is caused by inflammation of your skin. It sounds like a similar condition as infection, but inflammation occurs when bacteria, viruses or other foreign particles get into your body through your pores. Bacteria can live on your skin for up to 24 hours after getting inside. As such, irritation is basically a bacterial infection of the outermost layer of your skin. Infection occurs when bacteria actually penetrate the skin and travel deeper.
So, why does your pierced nipple hurt? The answer lies in how deeply the metal penetrates your skin. A piercing made from solid gold would only go down 1 millimeter deep; however, a regular earring will pierce much deeper, sometimes reaching 4-5 centimeters (about 2 inches) under the surface. When you see a needle pierce your flesh, you feel immediate pressure around where the tip meets your skin. Since piercing involves metal entering your skin, the metal pushes against your soft tissue, causing friction. With repeated use, this friction eventually causes damage to the surrounding tissues and leads to inflammation.
Although we know what causes irritated piercings, the question remains, “How do I treat them?” First, you should take all precautions necessary to avoid any possible contaminates. Keep jewelry clean and change them often. Don’t share jewelry or razors with others. Also, make sure you don’t try to pull out a loose ring too quickly. Doing so can lead to bleeding, which can spread various types of bacteria. While some people consider it unsanitary to wash their jewelry before wearing them again, washing your jewelry daily is still recommended.
If your nipple becomes inflamed, it can become extremely tender and sensitive to the touch. Sometimes, you’ll experience warmness and itching near the site. For mild cases, simply leave the area alone. Covering it with gauze will help keep debris away and reduce further contact between your skin and the pinching metal. If the pain persists longer than three days, consult your doctor. Your dermatologist will want to know exactly how long the piercing was in place, whether another object penetrated the hole, and whether you recently had surgery. He or she will probably prescribe antibiotics to fight infection.
For severe cases, your doctor may need to remove the entire piercing. Removing an entire piercing isn’t necessarily easy, either. Often times, doctors recommend using local anesthesia during removal, since removing a whole lot of skin can be uncomfortable. They usually apply numbing ointments over the area several days prior to removal. During the procedure, the doctor will carefully take out the metal fragment, followed by the surrounding scar tissue. Afterward, he or she will fill the wound with a healing gel designed specifically for open wounds. Healing gels speed up the process of re-epithelialization, or the regeneration of new layers of skin cells. Once the wound heals completely, the doctor will cover it with a skin graft from elsewhere on your chest or back. Skin grafts serve as a protective covering until the wound is ready to accept new skin.
The recovery period varies depending on the type of injury. Piercers who use surgical steel, unlike those who use non-toxic pliable metals, are required to wait six weeks after taking out the entire piece before resuming sexual activity. Non-surgical patients can resume sex sooner, usually one week after removal.
Now that you know the basics of nipple piercings, read on to find out how you can prevent and protect your nipples from harm.
Nipple piercings were popular among ancient cultures. Many civilizations believed that women who wore rings on their nipples achieved heightened fertility. Ancient Greeks and Romans placed coins into nipples to improve lactation [Source: Fenton].
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