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Ear cartilage piercing is one of the common body art procedures done today. However, a common complication of such procedure is keloid formation.

Keloids result from an overgrowth of dense fibrous tissues that develop after a skin injury heals. The tissue expands to become bigger than the original wound and does not revert spontaneously. Although most keloids do not cause significant problems, some may become itchy, painful or disfiguring. Some may also cause contractures, which can affect joint function.

Keloids often develop on the earlobes, shoulders, chest, and back. It is not clear why they form in some people or why they occur on one part of the body and not in other parts. They can develop after minor injuries associated with body piercing, and the best way to prevent them is to avoid unnecessary skin surgeries such as ear piercing.

Keloid Treatment

There are many possible treatments for keloids, but there is no single best treatment. The choice of treatment may depend on various factors such as its location and size, the depth of the injury, the patient's age, and the response to previous treatment used.

Standard treatment for keloids includes:

  • the use of occlusive dressings such as silicone gel sheets, non-silicone dressings, and Cordran tape.
  • compression therapy, which applies pressure on the keloid using compression wraps, elastic bandages, spandex or elastane bandages, support bandages, pressure-gradient garments and pressure earrings
  • corticosteroid injections into the keloid (intralesional), which is the mainstay of treatment. Injections with triamcinolone acetonide are usually given every four to eight weeks. They help flatten the keloid, but they can also make them redder because of the formation of superficial blood vessels around the keloid.

Current and new medical treatments for keloids include:

  • Intralesional injections using various drugs such as interferon (IFN), chemotherapy drugs (5-FU, doxorubicin, bleomycin), verapamil, and botulinum toxin.
  • Topical application of imiquimod 5% cream, retinoic acid, and tacrolimus
  • A combination of silicon, hydrocortisone, and vitamin E

Surgical treatments for keloids include:

  • Excision, which involves primary wound repair. This may be risky because cutting the skin can trigger a larger keloid formation.
  • Cryotherapy, which involves freezing the keloid with liquid nitrogen to flatten it; however it may cause darkening or lightening the site involved.
  • Laser therapy, a costly treatment that involves several sessions, but is safe and effective
  • Other light therapies, such as Intense Pulsed light, photodynamic therapy, Ultraviolet A-1, Narrowband UVB, and Broadband UVB
  • Radiation therapy, which has also been reported to be safe and effective

Be warned, though, that there is a high rate of recurrence of keloids, and that doctors may advise you to follow-up for at least one year to fully evaluate the effectiveness of therapy. Close monitoring is important during treatment for patients to benefit from aggressive therapy for subsequent keloid formation.

The best way to prevent a keloid after ear cartilage piercing is to avoid ear piercing. Aside from keloids, ear piercing also carries many risks such as infection, allergic reaction, pain, bleeding, earlobe tearing, and scars, among others. Consult a doctor for proper evaluation and treatment if any of these complications occur after ear piercing.

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