Why do my ear piercings continue to get irritated after 10 years?
September 30, 2009 8:42 AM Subscribe
Almost ten years after I've worn earrings, my piercings continue to regularly swell and discharge pus. What's wrong with my ears, how can I fix it, and will I ever wear earrings again?
posted by anonymous to health & fitness (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The (gross) backstory:
Each of my earlobes is pierced twice. Both were done with a gun rather than a needle (bad, I know); the first ones about 20 years ago and the second ones about 12 years ago. I used to use hydrogen peroxide to clean my piercings and earrings (I think that's also no longer recommended).
I no longer have any of the earrings I used to wear, but they were all fairly inexpensive, and were probably made of a variety of metals that are usually used for cheap earrings.
About 10 years ago, my piercings suddenly started getting really irritated, no matter how often I changed/cleaned them. I gave up on wearing earrings for a while.
At one point, after I hadn't worn earrings for almost a year, I tried putting in my original piercing earrings (some fake gold ones with extra-pointy posts); my earlobes were red and swollen within 15 minutes, and it took several days to recover. I haven't attempted to wear earrings since.
A year or so later, I discovered one day that my earlobe was swollen and itchy. I pressed on it from behind and discharged pus through one of the piercing holes -- like popping a zit. It relieved the pressure and pain. In the years since, my piercings have intermittently become irritated in this way, and I can usually "pop" whichever one is irritated and discharge white pus (although sometimes a hole can be irritated but doesn't want to "pop"). Blood never comes out of the holes.
All four holes are susceptible, although it seems that my right side is irritated more often (however, the top hole on the right side is irritated right now, so maybe I'm biased). I estimate that at least one hole becomes irritated every two to four weeks, although I admit I've never kept track. The irritation usually lasts a couple of days.
Obviously, since this has been happening for many years, it has gone on as I've had many different hairstyles, used different hair products, slept on different pillowcases, lived in different apartments, and even lived on different continents. I don't have any medical conditions or allergies that I know of.
What the hell would make really old piercings randomly, but regularly, irritated? Is there anything I can do to prevent the irritation? I'd really like to wear earrings again, and I'm willing to wear metals that are better for sensitive ears (stainless steel?), but I'm reluctant to experiment because of the cost of earrings and the pain that's involved.
(Anonymous because I really don't want my coworkers to know about my gross ears...)