Most Dangerous Body Modifications

Extreme Body Modifications: Branding

With branding, heated metal rods are pressed into the skin, creating third- degree burns intended to heal into a raised scar in the selected pattern. Potential dangers of this body modification procedure include pain and skin infection. Trying to repair a brand can lead to further scarring and disfigurement. If you really want one, choose a design and location on your body you can live with and make sure the environment and tools used are sterile (which is unlikely in someone's house). Proper wound care is essential. Seek immediate medical care for any signs of infection, like pus, tenderness, redness, fever, and chills.

Extreme Body Modifications: Tongue Splitting

Tongue splitting involves cutting with a scalpel, threading it apart, and cauterizing the wound, explained Deepinder Sahota, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Fremont, Calif., and a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association. Although Dr. Sahota hasn't performed the procedure, she urged anyone considering it to first talk to their dentist and learn about the potential dangers of this body modification: infection, pain, bleeding, and a need for further procedures. Oral hygiene needs to be top notch for such a wound, and sterilization of the location and instruments involved are crucial.

Extreme Body Modifications: Waist Training

In certain fashion circles, the desire for a pinched waist has led to the extreme body modification of waist training. People wear tight corsets and claim to be able to lose several inches at the waist as a result. At its most extreme, the process includes removing ribs. The primary risks involve pain, indigestion, dizziness, and poor posture, and the outcome could be an unnatural silhouette. "I'm concerned that we are distorting our sense of beauty," said Dr. Rohrich. A better strategy might be exercise and weight loss to help tone and trim your waist to its natural shape.

Extreme Body Modifications: Magnet Implants

Tempted to have tiny magnets or magnetic metals implanted on your fingertips so you can sense electromagnetic fields? People with these silicone-coated implants swear by the sensations. A small cut in the skin is made to insert the magnet. Potential dangers of this body modification include pain, skin infection, rejection of the implant by your body, corrosion, and death of the skin over the implant. If you do this, choose a finger or location that you don't rely on for gripping and lifting to minimize changes to dexterity.

Extreme Body Modifications: Body Piercings

The biggest challenge with piercings in spots such as the tongue, belly button, and genital area is wound care to avoid infection and pain. There's also the daily risk of getting these piercings caught on other items. Sahota has observed that tongue piercings need a high level of cleanliness to heal and, once healed, precautions to prevent damage to sensitive front teeth. "When you talk, that ball can repeatedly hit your teeth," she pointed out. Also choose jewelry for the piercing that's not overly large or heavy — advice that applies to all sensitive body parts.

Extreme Body Modifications: Sub-Dermal Implants and 'Bagel Heads'

Sub-dermal implants are molded shapes implanted under your skin. The molds can be made from silicone, metal, or Teflon and might have small metal extensions to attach jewelry. Implants are inserted through a small incision; as your skin heals, the shape becomes clear. And while the implants pictured on Lady Gaga's face and shoulders are fake, the potential health risks tied to the real deal are anything but. Skin infections and allergic reactions are among the potential dangers of this body modification, along with pain and discomfort during and after the procedure. Scarring and disfigurement are also possible outcomes from the initial procedure — and any later procedures to remove the molds.

And while technically not considered a sub-dermal implant, the recent trend of inserting a saline injection into the forehead – commonly referred to as 'bagel head' – can also be unsafe. Medical professionals routinely inject saline solution into the body, but an unsterile needle can cause infection. Needles can also cause internal bleeding by puncturing a blood vessel.

Extreme Body Modifications: Tooth Filing

Some people turn to tooth filing to give them a predatory vampire-like look. The surface of the tooth is literally filed to create the desired fang shape. "When you file away the tooth to make it look like a fang, you are also filing away a protective tooth structure," explained Sahota. That opens you up to pain, cavities, an increased sensitivity to cold, and higher dental costs as you later try to repair the teeth. You also could lose the teeth involved if infection and pain can't be solved with a root canal, she said.

Extreme Body Modifications: Eye Tattoos and Piercings

Tattoos and jewelry for the eye may be gaining interest, but neither is worth the risk, said Philip Rizzuto, MD, an ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgeon and clinical associate professor of surgery at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Procedures that bring a needle or scalpel near your eye carry the risk for eye complications that can lead to vision loss, he stressed. Additionally, the eye is very sensitive, so you'll probably feel more pain and irritation from eye procedures than you would elsewhere on the body — and you also could have an unsightly scar when you remove the jewelry or tattoo.

Extreme Body Modifications: Temporary and Permanent Tattoos

Tattooing might be among the most popular body modifications, with ink appearing on nearly one in four adults. However, risks include ink reactions and skin and systemic infections such as hepatitis if your tattoo artist re-uses needles. With precautions like using new needles and fresh ink on each customer, tattoos do lead to fewer risks than most extreme body modifications. Removal can be expensive and painful, lead to scarring, or even be impossible to eradicate, said Rohrich. If you're thinking that a cute temporary tattoo is a safe alternative, know that so-called black tattoos using henna can cause serious skin reactions, including scarring.

Extreme Body Modifications: Ear Piercings Beyond the Lobe

"Any time you make an incision, you're going to have a scar," said Dr. Rizzuto. The quick flash of pain from a traditional earlobe piercing doesn't seem to carry much risk, but you still need to follow proper skin care and infection control procedures during healing. Be aware that multiple piercings and cartilage piercings can leave long-term scars that might be visible when you no longer want to wear the jewelry. Further, said Rizzuto, one of the most common repairs he has to make related to these piercings is to torn flesh and cartilage that occurred when jewelry snagged on another object.

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