The amazing adventures of my labret and I
Just to give a bit of background info, I've probably had an interest in piercings and tattoos since I was 18 or so...probably a bit of a late starter compared to most people but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing... Aside from my labret, I have standard lobe piercings (x1 left ear, x2 right), right tragus, right nostril and most recently a cartilage piercing about halfway up my left ear, as well as a couple of tattoos. Also of note, I'm a qualified doctor...having perhaps unwisely started medical school at the age of 17 (the youngest you can start in the UK).
After 2 and a half years of slavery and with about 6 months to go on my contract working in an emergency department, a job that was insanely stressful and antisocial, I decided that when I finished that job, which was in August this year I was going to take some time out, have some fun, do some travelling and have a think about whether I wanted to stick with medicine as a career or not. With that in mind, my thoughts turned to getting another piercing...something that I couldn't necessarily keep if I was working but could take out in time if I had to. No-one in work has ever had any problems with my ear piercings or nose stud (I wear a small one so it's not very noticeable) but I knew things would be different if I got something like a lip piercing or eyebrow barbell, which were the 2 types of piercings I was most interested in getting.
Anyway, at the time of finishing the job I had decided I wanted to go for a centre labret and even experimented a little with marking it on myself so see how it would look and one afternoon in mid-August I went to Tribe to get it done. It's the nearest body piercing place to me and since there are a few Tribe studios I reckoned it would be a decent enough place. I had to fill in a sheet giving some contact details and answer a few medical questions as standard. My piercer was Tim, who I'm not sure works there any more but he seemed very professional in explaining what he was doing and helping me to relax and telling me what to expect in terms of pain. He cleaned and marked it and made sure I was happy with the placement before proceeding. I had to lie down on the couch and he got me to close my eyes. The needle going through my lip was a sharp, burning pain, the worst I've had with getting a piercing, but it only lasted a second or two and then it was done. It was
bleeding a little and he cleaned it up, advised me to clean it twice daily using a cotton bud and saline and use mouthwash after meals, to take ibuprofen if required, and to return in about a week to have it downsized once the swelling had gone down.
I was quite anxious about the piercing for the next few weeks. I didn't know what to expect having never had an oral piercing before and I was having to clean it more than twice daily sometimes due to the amount of crusty discharge that would form. However Tim seemed happy enough with how it was looking when I went back to have it downsized. He said I would need to keep cleaning it for 2 weeks but I found I was still having to keep cleaning it a month later as it still hadn't settled down, although there didn't seem to be signs of a severe infection. I made plans for going on a 2 month long trip to the States and NZ, leaving at the beginning of September. Things seemed to worsen with the piercing a few days before I went away I'd been camping all weekend at a music festival, so it was obviously more difficult to keep it clean and there was pus coming out of it, though it didn't look red or swollen. I made an appointment at my GP and just kept cleaning the pierc ing regularly. 2 days later by the time I saw the doctor, it actually looked much better, but I asked her to prescribe antibiotics anyway so I would have something on hand to take if things got any worse when I was away.
For the next 3 weeks or so as I travelled in the States, things were much the same still having to clean crusties from it twice daily or so but it otherwise looked okay. Then I got to Seattle. The main factors that influenced what happened next with my piercing would probably be the 'holiday romance' or whatever you want to call it that I had with a guy I met at my hostel there (also he was a smoker, but I'm not sure how relevant that might be) and the fact that I got a bit lax with cleaning it. After 5 days in Seattle, I travelled up to Vancouver for 5 days and about halfway through my time there my lip started to swell, it was a bit red around the piercing and pus was coming out of it. I started taking the antibiotics and continued my travels, flying on to New Zealand.
On my first night there that I was so concerned about how my lip was looking that I tried to take the stud out and couldn't as my lip was too swollen I just couldn't get a grip on it to unscrew it. My trying to take the piercing out made my lip swell even more, later that night it got painful (I think as the disc was becoming more and more embedded into my lip) and due to the swelling the piercing became completely embedded in the inside of my lip. Because of the ongoing infection I thought it would probably be best just to complete the antibiotics before doing anything else about it...and it did settle down over the next few days. Before I knew it, from the outside the piercing looked the best it had ever been but on the inside there was an obvious problem it had healed over, the disc of the labret stud was easily palpable just below the surface but I couldn't take it out.
I put off getting anything done about it for the rest of the trip as it wasn't causing me any problems otherwise and I feared that if I had to get it cut out I might lose the piercing, which I loved. After getting home I steeled myself to getting something done about it. I first went to Tribe who said they couldn't do anything about it, to go to my GP and either the doctor or maybe even the nurse could sort it out. I next went to my GP, and the doctor I saw seemed to have less clue than me about what to do and said they didn't have the equipment to deal with that and even suggested it might need an oral surgeon to fix it, which I highly doubted. We agreed I would just go to A+E and see what they could do. Yesterday I got up early to make it down to A+E at the Western Infirmary by 9am, knowing from working experience that it's nearly always very quiet at that time in the morning.
I wish I'd just went there straight away. I was seen within about 15 minutes, the junior doctor who looked at it initially wasn't sure what to do and brought her senior in to have a look, and he knew exactly how to deal with it. They cleaned my lip, injected about 2ml of lignocaine with adrenaline, made a small incision and gently manoeuvred the metal disc out of my lip before unscrewing the ball to remove the labret completely. On getting home I instituted my own aftercare plan to hopefully save the piercing. I made up some saline and found the stud that it was piercing with initially with the longer bar and left it in the saline for about 20 minutes, and I cleaned my lip from the outside and rinsed with mouthwash before putting the labret in. I have went back to cleaning it twice daily and regularly rinsing with mouthwash.
24 hours later my lip is a bit swollen but otherwise the piercing looks good and it isn't sore. I'm enjoying having my little bit of metal in my mouth again and looking at buying a clear retainer for when I go back to work, because I love this piercing and think it really suits me. I hope if anyone's reading this and thinking about getting a labret piercing that reading this has given a bit of helpful information and helped them to make the right decision. I would just like to say as well that from a medical point of view, I think DIY lip piercing (as well as most DIY piercing) is on the whole a really stupid and unsafe idea. Unless you are a professional piercer or equivalent, don't do it, as even when a piercing is done by a skilled professional problems can still happen.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 21 Dec. 2008
in Lip Piercing