Infections following a tongue-piercing led to fatal brain abscesses in the case of one 22-year-old, according to a report published in the October issue of the journal Archives of Neurology. Just two weeks after getting his tongue pierced, a young man developed 13 dangerous lesions on the brain, which ultimately led to his demise two months after his initial admission into the hospital. Brain abscesses, which consist of bunched immune cells, pus and other brain cells, are generally caused by bacterial or fungal infections.
Of course, the risk of death by tongue piercing remains very, very low—and making sure to keep the site of a piercing clean is an essential first step in reducing risk of complications. Still, while popular, oral piercings aren’t without their risks. In the Archives of Neurology report, the authors refer to several reported episodes of endocarditis, or infection of the heart’s inner lining, related to tongue piercings, and one other instance of abscesses in the brain. More frequently tongue piercings lead to problems including chipped teeth, bleeding, and infections of the mouth.