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Cartilage Piercing Infection Causes, Signs, Bump, How to Treat, clean it

Do you have an infected cartilage piercing? Do not ignore it. In October 2014, dailymail.co.uk reported a story on a student, Bianca Hart, who lost part of her ear i.e. “when £10 piercing becomes so badly infected her cartilage disintegrated.” This perhaps should help you know the need to treat an infected cartilage piercing immediately as well as the need to go to a professional piercer.

Generally, piercings on the upper part of the ear, the cartilage, are much more dangerous than earlobe piercings and they are prone to infections that are much harder to treat since they hardly respond to antibiotics. Furthermore, there is a higher prevalence of infection on cartilage than earlobe i.e., there is a “22 percent infection rate for body piercing overall and a 34 percent infection rate for cartilage piercing,” according to ABC News.

Before we look at some signs, treatments including a case when you have a bump, let us first look at the causes of these infections.

My cartilage piercing is infected, what caused it?

Cartilage Piercing Infection Causes, Signs, Bump, How to Treat, clean it
Infected cartilage ear piercing

Infections on any body piercings often come as a result that related to the piercing process and care given to the piercing. Some of the common causes of ear cartilage piercing infection include the following:

1. Poor and unhygienic procedures

The first and most common cause of infections is the use of unsterilized equipment and poor procedures i.e. unsterilized needle, gun and other equipment. According to webmd.com, there has been reports of “cluster of infections caused by the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria” in Oregon, US. This bacterial infection have been attributed to the piercing “kiosk using poor procedures that led to multiple people getting infected at the same time” [webmd.com].

2. Inexpensive and wrong jewelry

Secondly, some people suffer from allergic reaction that often lead to more serious infection due to the use of wrong jewelry. Nickel for instance has been noted to cause allergic reaction to many people. Ensure you only use jewelry made from stainless steel, gold or titanium. Furthermore, avoid going for a post that is too tight or loose.

3. Poor personal hygiene and aftercare

A third cause of infected pierced ear cartilage is poor personal hygiene during the healing process or even years after. Ensure you follow the aftercare routine and never touch your piercing with dirty hands.

Cartilage Piercing Gone wrong - Damaged and swollen cartilage
Damaged and swollen cartilage

Furthermore, tie your hair nicely to ensure it does not touch your piercing for the first few days after you have been pierced and do not let other people touch your piercing either. Your pillow and bed sheets should also be changed and sterilized each day.

Other cause of cartilage ear piercing infection include

  • Physical injuries especially when wearing a jewelry, partying, sporting etc.
  • Over cleaning of the piercing
  • Avoid using a piercing gun as it distorts your cartilage and increase changes of you getting a bump behind your year.

Do not be surprised if you have infected cartilage piercing an after year or months of it completely healing. It happens especially if you are fond of touching or fondling the piercing.

Signs of infected cartilage piercing

Scared by the risks of piercings on your ear cartilage, you might be wondering how you would know if your cartilage piercing is infected so as to be treated as early as possible. It is simple. Just look at some of the common cartilage piercing infection symptoms that will never miss. Some of the common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Tenderness and pain on your cartilage
  • Redness of the skin around the piercing that lasts more than a few days in case of a new piercing.
  • Discharges from the piercing site on your cartilage that might include pus that might be green or yellowish in color.
  • The area around the piercing site feels hot
  • The color around the piercing site changes its color
  • Fever in severe cases, especially if you have been infected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa that cause Perichondritis.
  • Prolonged bleeding on your piercing.
  • Crust formation and scabbing

There are not the only sings of an infected cartilage piercing. There could be others depending on the cause of your infection.

How to treat an infected cartilage piercing, heal, fix, what to do, treatments

With a clear knowledge on causes and symptoms of an infected pierced cartilage, it is worthwhile looking at some of the ways on how to treat an infected cartilage piercing. These ways to fix a pierced cartilage will both be home remedies as well as the use of medications.

1. Use of strong antibiotics

The first way to treat cartilage piercing infection is by the use of antibiotics. This is commonly recommended when cellulitis occurs i.e. the word grows beyond the piercing site. A qualified medical practitioner must first verify that your infection is caused by bacteria.

Since the cartilage has very little blood supply, use of the ordinary prescribed antibiotics such as amoxicillin might not help. Get stronger prescriptions such as Cipro. However Cipro has not been approved for use by children.

2. Saline solution

For mild infection, you might need to clean the piercing using saline solution. This is a natural way to heal an infected cartilage piercing which is often also used to care for the piercing during the healing process.

3. Warm compress

To encourage blood flow to the cartilage, go for warm compress preferably using mixture of water and sea salt.

As you continue with your infected cartilage piercing treatment, it is advisable you adhere to good nutrition, avoid alcohol and quit smoking. This will boost blood circulation and ensure you heal fast.

4. Anti-bacterial ointments

In case you want to use ointment, you need to seek for a doctor’s approval since ointments affect the draining process and this can slow down healing of your piercing. Some of the common ointments to go for include mupirocin ointment or chlorhexidine rinse

Keloid due to cartilage piercing
Keloid on cartilage due to piercing

During the cleaning process, you might also use the piercing solution if your piercer provided you with any. Since they cause skin dryness, it is recommended not to use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

Should I remove the jewelry?

You are not supposed to remove your jewelry once you have an infection since it helps the piercing to drain. Removing a jewelry might make the pierced channel to close up or result to abscess characterized by “darkening and hardening of the surrounding tissue, swelling and pain” [bodyjewelleryshop.com] as the infection is trapped under the skin.

In case of a serious infection, see your doctor or professional piercer who might be in a position to recommend whether you can remove the jewelry or not. Although very rare, sometimes the jewelry might be permanently removed if there is much destruction of the tissue around the piercing. This is likely to cause deformity of your ear.

Why are cartilage piercings riskier?

If your pierced cartilage gets infected, ensure you get it treated as soon as possible since according to nhs.uk, this piercing is “riskier than earlobe piercings. If the site becomes infected, you may develop a painful abscess. This is because the skin is close to the underlying cartilage and pus can become trapped.”

In case your cartilage has developed an abscess, you need to go for surgery to remove it since antibiotics might not be of much help. Such surgical procedures require removal of the affected cartilage. This is likely to deform your ears.

Other risks associated with piercing on the ear cartilages include

  • Hypertonic scarring
  • Boils
  • Perichondritis
  • Keloid formation

Infected cartilage piercing bump, bubble

Infected cartilage piercing bump
piercing bump

Some people often develop cartilage piercing bumps on the back or from part of their ear cartilage. Some of the common symptoms that often accompany an infected cartilage bump include bleeding, pain, inflammation, fever, foul odor and pus oozing form the bump.

The formation of a bump can be as result of excessive collagen growth (a bump caused by a keloid), infection, use of gun during piercing process, or just a boil. If you have a bump on your piercing, some of the ways to treat it include the following:

1.Tea tree oil

This is perhaps the most effective way to get rid of a cartilage piercing bump. You need to use cotton ball in applying tea tree oil. It will not only fasten the healing process but also do away with the bump since it has anti-bacterial properties.

2. Aspirin

Crush aspirin, add a few drops of water, apply and leave it on the bump 2-3 times a day

3. Chamomile tea

Put a chamomile teabag in hot water and apply it on your bump until the teabag becomes cold. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes at least 2 times a day.

4. Sea salt soak

Mix a quarter teaspoon of salt to about 8 ounces of water. Use a cotton ball to apply the solution on your bump. Let the sea salt stay on your bump for about 15 minutes before you can rinse it off.

5. Lemon Juice

Add a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice to a small water bowl. Dip a cotton ball into the lemon juice and apply it on the bump. Lemon juice will help get rid of cartilage piercing bump.

How to clean an infected cartilage piercing, care

Since cartilages are not supplied with a lot of blood, you expect your cartilage to take long to heal. The healing process must be coupled with proper care and hygiene. This part is going to discuss some of the ways on how to clean an infected cartilage piercing to facilitate quick healing.

The most recommended way to clean your piercing will be using saline solution (mixture of sea salt and warm water). Ensure you thoroughly clean the area, “removing debris; dead tissue, pus, dirt or other foreign material” [bodyjewelleryshop.com]. To make your own saline solution, take one teaspoon on pure sea salt (non-iodized) to a short glass of hot water.

Some people will recommend the use of an antibacterial soap in the cleaning process. This is alright unless you have a very sensitive skin.

Further recommended reading
References and sources

 

About Vladmir Kucherov

68 comments

  1. Applicable more so to the end of the article referring to the cartilage piercing bump, has anyone tried the product Post-Pierce? A friend was raving about it. Jake.

    • UPDATE: My GF had the same thing on her nose and one behind the tip of her ear ( a bump or hypertrophic scars on both cartilage piercings.) We tried all the methods to get them gone and were disappointed, until a friend told us about a product called Post-Pierce that gets rid of the cartilage piercing bump in days. We found them online http://www.Post-Pierce.com It really helped her. Figured I spread the knowledge now that we know.

    • What do you if your hole ear is swollen from a regular two hole piercing should I take it out or no?

  2. Post Pierce for cartilage bumps
    According to manufacturers, post pierce is a” unique formula of essential oils that treat new cartilage piercings, particularly those that have formed nodules or hard bumps under the skin” [post-pierce.com]. You are supposed to gently message your new piercing using this product 3 times and day. Result are expected in 3-6 days. Anyone who has tried it?

  3. I had a cartilage piercing some 3 weeks ago and it has been fine until last night i felt it was very sore. This morning it seems to have swelled and it has ached all day like tooth ache. It really hurts and looks pussy. I have bathed in salt water is there any more i should do?

    • Continue cleaning it with salt water two to three times a day. Try over the counter pain killers to reduce the aching pain. If it persists for more than 24 hours, see your healthcare professional for further advice.

  4. my cartilage piercing has a bump on top of it. does lemon juice work or sea salt? which one is better?

    • don’t use lemon juice because it can dry out the piercing.i would prefer sea salt smoking it or u can also buy h2ocean on amazon for $8.99 to clean ur piercing. I’m currently on my second infection for my cartilage piercing so I’m going to get it check out by a doctor and i think you should also see what ur doctor says.

    • I got mine gone in less then a day. All I did was I took a shot glass of water like half full, and put about half of 1/4 of a tea spoon of salt in it, it shouldn’t really matter just put a good amount of salt in. Then dip a small piece of a paper towel in the shot glass and wrapp it around your Bump then just sit and wait (just go on with your normal day) and like every now and then see if it’s dry when it’s dry take it off dip it and put it back on. After while when you take it off and you barely even see it, if it shows up again just do that again. MUST READ: okay A word of advice when I did it one time it kind of got like stuck on my ear NOT a big problem it probably just got stuck because it probably just dryed and got stuck to it, but all you have to do is put a little bit of water on it and then it’ll come right off. and then of course I did dipped it in the salt water again and put it back on. Really that is not a problem at all

  5. I have a bump on the top of My cartilage piercing. does lemon juice work or is sea salt better?

  6. I’ve just had an infected cartilage piercing, due to inexpensive jewelry, it does happen- I found a big green lump next to the back off my earring, and my whole ear was red and swollen, and I didn’t know what to do but I did end up popping it and cleaning it with hot salt water, it is looking better now and isn’t sore. I now know not to buy/wear inexpensive earrings that was only a pound of this website.. because my ear did get infected

  7. I have a small numb forming on the side of my piercing both on the front and back of my ear. What should I do about it?

  8. I have a bump forming on the side of my piercing both on the front and back of my ear. What should I do about it and how can I cure it?

    • I got mine gone in less then a day. All I did was I took a shot glass of water like half full, and put about half of 1/4 of a tea spoon of salt in it, it shouldn’t really matter just put a good amount of salt in. Then dip a small piece of a paper towel in the shot glass and wrapp it around your Bump then just sit and wait (just go on with your normal day) and like every now and then see if it’s dry when it’s dry take it off dip it and put it back on. After while when you take it off and you barely even see it, if it shows up again just do that again. MUST READ: okay A word of advice when I did it one time it kind of got like stuck on my ear NOT a big problem it probably just got stuck because it probably just dryed and got stuck to it, but all you have to do is put a little bit of water on it and then it’ll come right off. and then of course I did dipped it in the salt water again and put it back on. Really that is not a problem at all

  9. Comment:I have a bulge at the back of my ear due to earring piercing. since I noticed it had a bulge and pus was coming out I removed the earring since 3months ago and now the hole has sealed up. what should I do since the bulge is still there? please reply.

  10. I had my upper ear cartiledge piercing done about 2 months ago. Just awhile ago, I noticed a bad scab on the back, and picked it off. It stopped bleeding, and i looked at it better. It looks like my skins trying to come over my piercing, and its swollen. HOWEVER. I can stillpush my piercing back and forth, It doesnt hurt, burn, sting, or even look red, so its possible i could still be at the first stages. I plan to put Hydrogen peroxide on it 3 times a day. How long do you think it will take for it to clear up?

    • Probably never
      Hydrogen peroxide is the worse thing you can do to healing skin- it essentially murders your flesh.
      Try Sea salt (1/8-1/2tbsp per cup of water) and mildly hot-warm water and soak your ear for 5-15 minutes 2-3 times a day. Should do this from piercing day to the 3-6 month mark in order to make sure it’s clean.

  11. Probably never
    Hydrogen peroxide is the worse thing you can do to healing skin- it essentially murders your flesh.
    Try Sea salt (1/8-1/2tbsp per cup of water) and mildly hot-warm water and soak your ear for 5-15 minutes 2-3 times a day. Should do this from piercing day to the 3-6 month mark in order to make sure it’s clean.

  12. I just noticed pus discharge from my piercing and i’ve been taking antibiotics pls, is there anything else I need to do?

    • I hope you had a prescription for the antibiotic. Consider seeing your doctor for topical antibiotic ointment while you continue taking your antibiotics until you complete your dose.

  13. I just got my cartilage piercing removed after it being in for a week, becasue the piercing was infected. Would it be a possibility to put the piercing back in once there infection is gone? Or would that be to much of a risk?

    • You can put it back but ensure you using steel or titanium and it is sterilized. Let your piercer or doctor advise you on when you can have it back.

    • Hello,I was looking for a yo date on your cartilage piercing ,was it okay to replace it when everything was cleared

  14. I have had my ear done for about a year and the first time I took it out it bled a lot but that was a little bit after I got it done . I have not taken it out since then so it would not bleed but I have no scabs or redness or burining or bubbles or pus so it it okay to take it out now and change my earing . Can it cause and infection? Will it bleed again? What do I do so I don’t get an infection.

  15. I had just gotten my cartilage pierced last week and it seems to be hot, red and swollen what should I do.

    • See your piercer or doctor to confirm if it is infected since swelling, redness and warmth feeling are all possible signs of infection.

  16. Last Saturday I got my cartilage pierced (a double helix) and it hurt for about the first 4 days and then the pain went away for the most part. I mean it still hurt if I put pressure on it but if I didn’t touch it roughly it was fine. But today my ear has been hurting all day. It’s not swelling or anything and it’s slightly warm but not too bad. It’s just a sharp pain in my ear and while I was cleaning it I noticed the pain was coming from the back of my top piercing and not the bottom. It hurts even though I’m not touching it. Is it infected? Should I see a doctor? Or is it just like a reaction. Please help!

  17. i got my cartridge done a week today and it only hurts when I clean it, is it infected or what?

    • Unless you have other symptoms, hurting while cleaning is normal for the first few days to about a week.

  18. I have 2 cartilage piercings. One is a dodgy stud that was done with a gun; have had that for about 7 months. The other is a titanium bar (done properly); have had that for about 4 months. The stud hasn’t caused me much grief but the bar has been a problem since day dot. It now have quite a large bump on the left side of it, at the back. It can only be described as a boil I guess as it is pus filled. I went back to see two piercers and they told me to use Hydrogen Peroxide (??) which I questioned at first but followed eventually. This did nothing for me. I since then used tea tree oil because of this site. And I have tried aspirin too! But… It seems the boil has become bigger. I don’t know what to do and am furious as this came on all of a sudden. Now the stud has a tiny boil too!! The stud is gold plated so I will need to change it with a real gold one. For the bar though…. Should I just stick with the tea tree oil and see how it goes? I was very careful with hygiene :/
    Help!

    • From your description, you have two possible issues:-

    • The titanium bar piercing is infected and this is why it has pus that could be a consequence of many factors including reaction to your gold plated jewelry.
    • The piercing process might have led to some skin trapped inside the piercing i.e.an abscess. According to Piercing Bible “an abscess is a pocket of infection containing pus, trapped under the skin, surrounded by inflamed tissue”
    • I would recommend seeing a doctor for diagnosis to confirm if you have an infection and going for a titanium or pure gold jewelry

  • I got a Cartilage piercing and It was perfectly fine until a while ago I noticed I was getting a bump but I have sensitive skin so I just thought it was a pimple so I popped it and then I went down a lil but now it’s bigger/worse it is pushing my piercing down so u can barely see the diamond.I don’t wanna tell my mom because she will freak and I love my piercing so I don’t wanna take it off and I wanna treat it myself so any suggestions??

  • I got a Cartilage piercing on each ear with a gun and I was perfectly fine until on one ear I seen a bump I thought it was a pimple because I have sensitive skin so I popped it and it went down a little and then now it’s bigger/worse.It pushed down my piercing so u can’t even see the diamond and I don’t wanna take out the piercing because I love it so much and have been wanting it for so long.I don’t know how long I’ve had it for.

    • I would suggest you visit your piercer or a doctor to decide whether it should be removed or you should at least change the jewelry

  • I had a bump in the back and front of my helix piercing! I used the tree tea oil and worked perfectly. It’s almost healed . I’ve been using it for one week, two times a day. I made my piercing a couple of months ago so it’s relatively “new”

  • I was trying to clean my ears tonight and I noticed a bump around my piercing, I’ve tried using shea butter but I don’t know if I’m to try anything else like the tea tree oil. I’m feeling so down right now cus I already used antibiotics few months ago and there was no bump present and it’s over 2 months now and I’m seeing a bump . Pls, what can I do to get rid of this bump?

  • If I use the tea tree oil, is it gonna get rid of the cartilage bump completely? Is it also compulsory I mix the tea tree oil with distilled warm water or I can use it without dilution.

    • It is the best way of getting rid of the bump. You can use it without dilution. However, just like hydrogen peroxide, it will cause a little skin dryness around the place you have applied it.

  • Oh, really? Thanks a bunch, I’ll try that. You’ve been helpful. Sorry, just curious. Are you an ear specialist?

  • I have a bump on my cartilage. Can I just cut it off?

    • no you definitely can not! That will only make it worse, keep the piercing in and apply tea tree oil in the morning and night until the lump goes away, i also suggest you change the jewellery as that can cause the bump

  • Please reply! I got my helix done about 7 months ago. It got infected pretty soon after becUse they did it with a gun and I don’t think it was done 100% sanitary. Infection has being coming and going since. I took the earring out today for the first time because I have a bump on the front and back of my ear and its was difficult to clean it properly. So I gave it a good clean but I want to let it settle down overnight but I’m scared incase it heals over. The bump is all the way around the hole. At least I think it is but I can’t see where the hole was.. I was careful with hygiene and have been using saline solution and salt water too. Do I try to put it back in or leave it? Hope to hear your advice! 🙂 thanks

    • Return the piercings back and see your pierce or doctor for proper treatment since the infection has been recurring

      • I think your ear would be fine just soak it in some hot salt water and that is what I did when to seemed
        to help

  • Good morning, i’m here again. I had a cartilage piercing on each of my ear but noticed a bump at the back of one of my cartilage piercing few months ago and was adviced to try tea tree oil but didn’t because it was not available at that moment and also noticed the bump was almost not visible the next day. To my surprise, i noticed a swelling with a discharge on the back of my ear which later bled after cleaning the pus yesterday. I’m thinking of changing the earring to a smaller one and seeing a doctor but im scared of removing the earring bcus i dont want the hole to close in entrapping the pus inside. Pls what do i do?

  • I Got a And Ear Piercing… And it sounds normal But I am a guy… I have had it for about two and half months now but yesterday I noticed I had a ball in the inside of my my ear where the piercing is . what should I do?

    • Hi, did you figure out what you were supposed to do about your piercing? I have also had mine for a year and a half and the bump will not go away 🙁

  • i have a cartilage piercing since a year and half almost and now its little sore and have a bump .. i don’t know what should i do i mean what’s the best for it because it’s been a year and half since it was pierced.

  • Comment: Hey guys I need some help with regards to my cartilage piercing, I pierced for about a year now and the bump is not getting better even though m cleaning it. What else can I do.

  • I got the tips of my ears pierced over a month ago and on the back of one ear, there was a water blister looking thing so I was wondering if this was a Keltoid and what should I do?

  • I’m pretty worried about my cartilage piercing. I got both my ears done and only my right is swollen a bit not much. It is also red and hurts when I touch it. Its not oozing or anything but none the less I’m still scared. Iv been using antibacterial cream on it and it primarily hurts on the back of my ear near the back of the stud. I do not have a bump though. I got my ears pierced like 5 days ago what can I do? Please respond 🙂

  • Use Post-pierce for bumps people. http://www.post-pierce.com/

  • I have had my cartilage piercing in for 2years. It was done with a gun sadly and has been hurting and had been infected 2 times even though I clean it. It still has a bump and if very tender and makes it hard to sleep on. What should I do?

  • I’ve had my cartilage piercing for about 6 months now and slept on it last night. It’s now swollen and eating the piercing. Should I just take it out or would that make it worse?

  • I recently got my helix about 3 day ago and it’s been felling tender, sore and red also it’s very swollen my ear look oily but I clean it with antibiotics soap and I changed it to sea salt soaks is it normale to to very swollen ???

  • Ok so I got my Cartledge done about a month ago and I just noticed a bump on the back of my ear right by the cartilage piercing with pus and I’m not sure if I should use tea tree oil and if I do use tea tree oil should I apply it with Q-Tip or? Please help

  • I got mine gone in less then a day. All I did was I took a shot glass of water like half full, and put about half of 1/4 of a tea spoon of salt in it, it shouldn’t really matter just put a good amount of salt in. Then dip a small piece of a paper towel in the shot glass and wrapp it around your Bump then just sit and wait (just go on with your normal day) and like every now and then see if it’s dry when it’s dry take it off dip it and put it back on. After while when you take it off and you barely even see it, if it shows up again just do that again. MUST READ: okay A word of advice when I did it one time it kind of got like stuck on my ear NOT a big problem it probably just got stuck because it probably just dryed and got stuck to it, but all you have to do is put a little bit of water on it and then it’ll come right off. and then of course I did dipped it in the salt water again and put it back on. Really that is not a problem at all

  • I got my cartilage pierced a few days ago, and its been red and swollen ever since. Its really tender and it looks like my ear is swallowing the earring. I’m scared its infected, and im scared that when it heals, the hole will be really big because the skin is swollen up around the ball part of the stud and its still an open wound. What should i do?

  • Hi, I recently pierced my cartilage a week ago. It was okay at first but 6 days after the piercing it started throbbing. Is thiae normal or should I be worried?

  • I have a growth on my upper ear which started growing while reacting to earrings when I was pregnant so now I don’t know which solution works faster. Sometimes it’s itchy and it seems like the more I scratch the more it grows. It’s hard under the skin. What do I use?

  • Is ocean water ok to use ?

  • I have an industrail piercing which is a bit swollen and red, the artist told me to taking anti inflamatory, run it under a warm shower, wash it, put ice on it, and use some anti infectant product. However, she aldo told me that they might newd to chane my bar for a longer and thinner one in order ti sllow the swelling to go down but right i cant even touch my ear without it hueting, let alone pull out and replace the piercing? Does anyone have any comments on this? Any similar stories

  • I got an industrial ear piercing august 25, 2016 its healing fine except it has a bubble/bump on the underside of the top whole. WHat do I need to do to get rid of it and is it infected or hypertrophic scarring?

  • I had my cartilage pierced in November and I just now decided to take it out to see how it’s been progressing. It is healed all the way, however I have a mass inside the cartilage that makes it look swollen. I can feel it when I rub the cartilage between two fingers. I put the earring right back in and now I’m unsure what to do.

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