Doctors say corset piercings, skin implants very dangerous
CBS News has recently posted a rather disturbing slideshow of much more extreme body modifications, such as tongue bifurcation, transdermal skin implants, and corset piercings. Doctors are concerned about these procedures, saying they are risky business.
Body piercing, the practice of puncturing a part of the body to create an opening for jewelry, is not a new trend. Ear piercings and nose piercings have been documented back more than 5,000 years. Facial piercings in the lip and tongue have been found in African and American tribal cultures long before its popularity among young Americans. Even nipple and genital piercings can be documented in literature dating back to Ancient Rome.
A more contemporary form of piercing is corset piercing. It is often associated with erotic behavior and most are intended to be temporary. Corset piercing starts with the creation of two rows of piercings on either side of the spine. Once these heal, they can be laced with ribbons and pulled taut. The wearer must be diligent about keeping the area clean, which is difficult when the piercings are on your back. Risks of this kind of body modification include infection, rejection of the jewelry, and unsightly scarring.
Tongue bifurcation, or splitting the tongue into a “fork”, is performed by cutting the tongue along the middle from the tip back to about midway along the tongue. The practice can be traced to Hatha and Kumbhaka yoga practices where it is used as a part of breathing exercises. Of course Hindu mythology and Christian religions associate a forked tongue with evil.
Healing takes approximately 2 weeks to one month, and during this time, a person may be unable to eat a normal diet or speak clearly. An oral surgeon can perform the procedure, but – according to one source – will charge around $500 to $3000.
Some piercing studios may also offer tongue bifurcation, which should be examined by a consumer very closely to ensure a sterile environment to prevent infection. Other risks of having the procedure outside a medical office include loss of blood. The tongue contains major blood vessels and amateur practitioners may accidently cut one and not be able to control the bleeding.
Although some subdermal implants have medical purposes (the Norplant contraceptive device is actually a type of subdermal implant), the kind of implant used for body modification is described as a kind of body jewelry placed under the skin, allowing the body to heal over the implant and creating a raised design. Some examples include “raised brows” which cause the face to look feline-like or metal spikes which protrude from the body. Health risks include infection both from the procedure (if not performed in a sterile environment) or from the implantation of a foreign object into the body.
The most risky procedure highlighted in the CBS slideshow is eye tattooing. Some people are choosing to color the whites of their eyes (sclera) in wild colors such as red and blue. Pigment is injected under the top layer of the eye using a syringe. Ophthalmologists are supporting bans of the procedure. Last year, the state of Oklahoma made it illegal to color the sclera of the eye.
Some doctors have gone as far as to call extreme body modification a sign of mental illness. A recent paper published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics suggests that there is a link between some body modification practices and symptoms such as depression, negative emotionality, and participation in high risk behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse.
“People have the right to make their own choices,” says Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon Jon Perlman. “I think it’s a terrible idea to try and produce the bizarre.”