Ear collapse is a condition which can be caused by the infection of a cartilage piercing. Although this condition is unusual, especially when a piercing is properly cared for, it is extremely serious, and it requires prompt medical attention. To avoid this condition, people should care for cartilage piercings meticulously, and keep an eye on the condition of the ear. If an infection is suspected, it is a good idea to seek attention promptly.
This condition starts with an infection of the layers of cartilage associated with the piercing. Because the infection is actually inside the tissue of the ear, it can be hard to spot, until the infection starts to spread, literally eating through the layers of cartilage on the way. As the cartilage becomes compromised, that section of the ear collapses in on itself, because it lacks support.
Once it has happened, the collapse is irreversible, and the condition can cause significant deformities. In severe cases, people may opt for reconstructive surgery to rebuild the ear, especially if the infection was allowed to spread across a large area of the ear. This condition is treated with antibiotics which address the infection. Using antibiotics is crucial, because the infection must not be allowed to spread to the inner ear, which could cause loss of hearing.
The risk of ear collapse is present in the case of any cartilage piercing, along with an assortment of other medical risks, but it can be reduced by using the services of a professional piercer who has experience placing cartilage piercings. Aftercare instructions should also be closely followed, with piercees washing the site gently with warm water and antibacterial soap several times a day, using sea salt soaks to reduce the risk of infection, and avoiding unnecessary handling of the piercing until it heals.
Spotting the infection associated with this condition is tricky. As a general rule, if the area around the piercing feels extremely hot or soft, this is a sign of infection. The infection may also generate a discharge which is typically thick and smelly. If any of these symptoms manifest around a cartilage piercing, the piercer should be informed, and a doctor should be consulted. Be aware that taking the piercing out can make it harder to treat the ear collapse, by trapping the infection inside the ear.