Cartilage piercings can be a fun and exciting way to express oneself. However, just like any other piercing, they come with risks and potential complications. One of the most common complications associated with cartilage piercings is the development of bumps, specifically hypertrophic scars. These bumps can be unsightly and uncomfortable, but fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and treat them.
What are hypertrophic scars?
Scars are raised, red, and often itchy scars that form at the site of an injury. In the case of cartilage, piercings can form around the piercing site, making it appear swollen and bumpy. Unlike keloid scars, which can continue to grow and extend beyond the original site of injury, hypertrophic ones stay within the boundaries of the original injury.
What causes hypertrophic scars?
They are caused by an overproduction of collagen, which is the protein responsible for giving our skin its structure and elasticity. When an injury occurs, the body produces more collagen to help repair the damaged tissue. However, in some cases, the body produces too much collagen, forming a hypertrophic scar.
Certain factors can increase the risk of developing hypertrophic-scars, including:
Genetics: Some people are more prone to developing hypertrophic-scars than others.
Size and depth of the injury: Larger and deeper injuries are more likely to result in hypertrophic scarring.
Location of the injury: Areas with less blood flow, such as cartilage, are more susceptible to hypertrophic scarring.
Poor aftercare: Not taking proper care of an injury can increase the risk of hypertrophic scarring.
How to prevent hypertrophic scars
The best way to prevent hypertrophic scarring is to care for your cartilage piercing properly. Here are some tips to help you avoid developing scars:
Choose a reputable piercer: A skilled piercer will use the proper technique and equipment to minimize the risk of injury and scarring.
Follow aftercare instructions: Your piercer will provide you with aftercare instructions, which typically involve cleaning the piercing with saline solution and avoiding certain activities, such as swimming, for a certain period.
Avoid touching the piercing: Touching the piercing can introduce bacteria and increase the risk of infection, which can lead to hypertrophic scarring.
Avoid sleeping on the piercing: Sleeping on the piercing can put pressure on the area, which can lead to irritation and scarring.
Avoid changing the jewelry too soon: Changing the jewelry too soon can disrupt the healing process and increase the risk of scarring.
Treatment options for hypertrophic scars
If you develop a hypertrophic scar, several treatment options are available. Here are some of the most effective options:
Applying pressure to the scar with a silicone gel sheet or compression bandage can help flatten the scar and reduce its size.
Injecting a steroid medication into the scar can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Using liquid nitrogen to freeze the scar can help reduce its size and thickness.
Using a laser to target the scar tissue can help break it down and reduce its size.
Other Cartilage Piercing Bumps
In addition to hypertrophic, other types of bumps can develop around cartilage piercings. Here are some of the most common:
Unlike hypertrophic, keloid scars can continue to grow beyond the boundaries of the original injury. They are more common in people with darker skin tones and are often more difficult to treat than hypertrophi-scars.
An abscess is a pus-filled bump that can develop around a piercing if there is an infection. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect that you have an abscess, as it can be severe if left untreated.
Bumps can also develop if the cartilage is damaged during the piercing process or due to trauma to the area. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct the damage.
Some people may develop a bump around their piercing if they have an allergic reaction to the jewelry. This can often be resolved by switching to a different type of jewelry, such as titanium or gold.
Hypertrophic Scar vs Keloid
It is a common misconception to mistake hypertrophic scarring for keloids, as both types of scars are raised and red in appearance. However, there are significant differences between the two. While keloids can grow to be significantly large and raised, hypertrophic-scars are limited to a maximum height of 4mm. Furthermore, keloids are only found in individuals with specific genetic traits, making it relatively rare. Those who are genetically predisposed to developing keloids tend to experience them with various types of injuries, not just from piercings. Therefore, if you have the trait, you may already be aware of it.
Q: How long does it take for a cartilage piercing bump to go away?
A: The time it takes for a bump to go away depends on the severity of the bump and the treatment method used. Some bumps may go away on their own over time, while others may require medical intervention.
Q: Can I pop a cartilage piercing bump?
A: You should never attempt to pop a cartilage piercing bump. Doing so can introduce bacteria and increase the risk of infection, leading to further complications.
Q: How can I tell if a bump around my piercing is a hypertrophic scar or something else?
A: It can be difficult to tell the difference between a hypertrophic scar and other types of bumps that can develop around a cartilage piercing. If you are unsure, it is best to consult with a medical professional or a reputable piercer.
Q: Can hypertrophic scars come back after treatment?
A: While treatment can effectively reduce the size and appearance of hyper to scars, there is a risk that they may return in some cases.
Hypertrophic scars and other bumps can be an unfortunate complication of cartilage piercings. However, taking proper care of your piercing and seeking necessary treatment can minimize your risk of developing these issues. Remember to choose a reputable piercer, follow aftercare instructions, and avoid touching or changing your jewelry too soon. If you develop a bump, consult with a medical professional or piercer to determine the best course of treatment.