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Have you noticed your piercing is in a slightly different place or angled differently from where it was when you first got pierced? It may be that swelling is playing tricks on you and making it appear that your piercing is moving, or it might be piercing migration. Piercings can migrate when they are placed too close to the skin, if they are frequently bumped or under pressure, or if your immune system simply decides it doesn’t like it. Piercings can migrate a small distance and then stop when they become comfortable or they can continue to migrate until they get pushed out.
What is Piercing Migration?
Piercing migration is when the jewelry in a piercing is slowly pushed towards the top of the skin and out of the body. The jewelry may only be pushed a small amount and then stop or it can continue pushing until it is pushed out of the body or (more likely) pushed until only a thin layer of skin holds the jewelry in and then it gets ripped out. Because of this, piercing migration should be carefully watched, preferably by a piercer, who can remove the jewelry when it gets to a dangerous position.
Causes of Piercing Migration
Piercing migration can occur because of a few different factors. The most common one is the jewelry has too much pressure placed on it, either because of the placing of the piercing or the diameter of the jewelry inserted. Piercings may also migrate because of low quality jewelry materials. However sometimes migration occurs simply because your body doesn’t like the piercing. Similar to how over time your body will push out a splinter, your body can sometimes recognize a piercing as a foreign body (which it is) and push it out. Unfortunately people who have this type of migration happen can have a hard time keeping a piercing permanently because of their over-active immune system.
How to Fix Piercing Migration
In an ideal scenario, piercing migration will fix itself. I have had more than one piercing that migrated a small amount over the course of a few days and then stopped and healed completely- just in a slightly different place. However some migration needs intervention. Unfortunately if the piercing was simply placed in a bad spot or if you have an over-active immune system, there is nothing that can be done and the piercing will simply need to be removed. But sometimes migration occurs because the curve of the jewelry is too tight. In this case, a piercer can get you swapped out to a larger diameter jewelry to stop the migration.
The Dangers of Piercing Migration
Unless in a sensitive area such as the genitals, the actual migration while still under the skin can’t harm you. The danger of piercing migration occurs when the jewelry is brought too close to the skin. When the jewelry is too close to the outside of the body, it can be easily ripped out. Ripping out jewelry will obviously cause a lot of bleeding as well as potential scarring. If your jewelry is to the point where you can see it through the skin, it is too late to try taking out the jewelry on your own- you will likely accidentally rip it out. Visit your piercer to have migrated jewelry taken out.
Sometimes piercings migrate and nothing can be done about it. If the piercing has been migrating for several days, it is worth a try to visit the piercer and get your jewelry changed. However, if your jewelry is steadily moving towards the skin with no sign of stopping, it is best to have the piercing removed so it does not get ripped out and cause scarring.