Everything You Need To Know About An Infected Nipple Piercing

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
After years of contemplating whether or not the trendy body jewelry was right for you, you finally took the plunge and got a nipple piercing. But you've noticed a few red flags since then: The area around the piercing is unusually warm, swollen, and secreting a discolored discharge. You start to wonder, Is this an infection?
Before you panic, we asked the pros — Brian Keith Thompson, celebrity piercer and owner of Body Electric, and dermatologist Matthew Lin, MD — for their best advice.
Ahead, they tell us the symptoms to look out for and the treatments that'll work best. Of course, nothing you'll read online is as helpful as seeking a medical opinion from your physician in person. If you're really worried, give your doctor a call, book an appointment, and then read below.

Do nipple piercings get infected easily?

The good news is that piercing infections aren't all that common; it's more likely to be an allergic reaction, says Thompson. Even so, people with nipple piercings are more likely to contract a piercing-related infection than someone with a hole in their ear or nose cartilage.

How do you know if your nipple piercing is infected?

The telltale signs of an infection aren't as complicated — or gruesome — as you might think. Dr. Lin tells us that early signs may be subtle, but will likely include redness, warmth, swelling, discharge, and sensitivity around the piercing. In more severe cases, swelling may develop in the lymph nodes in the armpit and you may begin to feel feverish. If the infection progresses without treatment, you may notice more green or brown discharge. White fluid or crust, on the other hand, is normal — it's called lymph fluid, and it's a sign that your body is healing.
Photographed by Ashley Armitage.

Does a bump on nipple piercing mean it's infected?

Not necessarily. A bump isn't usually a red flag for infection, but that all depends on how it looks and feels. If you do see a bump, it's best to call your doctor to check it out because it could be one of many things, including a granuloma, pustule, keloid, or hypertrophic scar — all of which will likely be mistreated if you self-diagnose.

How do you treat an infected nipple piercing?

"The skin infection is usually caused by staphylococcus aureus," says Dr. Lin. "A mild infection can be treated by cleaning the area three times a day with an antiseptic solution and then applying a topical antibiotic ointment."

Will antibiotics help an infected piercing?

If your physician finds that the infection is severe, they might prescribe an antibiotic. It can take anywhere from one week to months for an infected nipple piercing to heal — depending on its severity, of course. Considering the fact that it could take up to a whole year for a nipple piercing to heal, period, we suggest babying that body jewelry like it's a new house plant from Ikea.
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