Do You Have Shattered Cartilage? Here’s How to Know

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Cartilage ear piercings are trendy, and while earlobe piercings are considered relatively safe, cartilage piercings come with a catch. With limited blood flow in the cartilage, the infection risk is higher than with other ear piercings, and there’s also the risk of “shattered cartilage”.

If you’re curious about shattered cartilage or concerned you have shattered cartilage, this guide is for you. We’re sharing how to know if your cartilage is shattered, how long it takes to heal, tips to avoid it altogether, and more. 

Can you shatter the cartilage in your ear?

cartilage ear piercing -  Read This Guide To Learn All About Shattered Cartilage


You can shatter the ear cartilage by subjecting it to excessive force or trauma. Attempting to penetrate it with a solid, dull object, such as jewelry from a piercing gun, is like trying to force a blunt needle through it. The impact will shatter and possibly damage the cartilage. However, using a hollow needle keeps it in place, leaving only a clean and precise hole. 

Causes of shattered cartilage

Shattered cartilage is a painful reality that can result from various reasons, including the following:

  • A punch to the ear or a rough fall
  • Contact sports like boxing or wrestling
  • Car accidents and other traumatic motor vehicle incidents
  • Physical altercations or assaults
  • Ear cartilage piercing with a piercing gun 
  • Rarely from ear surgery.

💡 Take Note: If you suspect you’ve suffered a shattered ear cartilage, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

How do you know if your ear cartilage is shattered? 

Symptoms of shattered ear cartilage can include pain, swelling, changes in the shape of the ear, and tenderness to the touch. In severe cases, shattered ear cartilage can also cause hearing problems and other complications.

What does shattered cartilage look like?

deformed shattered cartilage


Shattered cartilage looks deformed and unnatural. You may also notice swelling, bruises, or discoloration in the affected area. The spot will also be red or warm to the touch. If the shattered cartilage is infected, you may also notice drainage or discharge from the piercing. 

Can a shattered ear cartilage heal?

A shattered ear cartilage can heal, but it won’t go away on its own and, if left untreated, can develop an infection and weaken it over time. Seek medical attention immediately, especially if you notice an abscess or discharge. Intravenous antibiotics and surgery may be necessary to repair the damage. 

💡 Take Note: Waiting to seek medical attention could result in permanent cartilage loss.

How long does ear cartilage take to heal?

The healing time for shattered ear cartilage can vary depending on the severity. Seeking immediate medical attention helps protect the injured area from further harm, thus reducing the healing time. A doctor can help determine the extent of the injury and recommend the best course of treatment to help ensure a full and proper recovery.

What to do if your piercing shattered your cartilage 

If your cartilage shattered during the piercing process, here’s how you can handle it.

Clean the affected area

Gently clean the piercing and surrounding area with saline solution to help prevent infection. Remember that despite careful attention to hygiene, roughly 30% of cartilage piercings can become infected.

A study of over 450 nurses who had their ears pierced found that 30% of high ear piercings, or piercings in the cartilage of the upper ear, developed infections, compared to only 20% of earlobe piercings. However, if an infected piercing is detected early, the treatment is straightforward and uncomplicated.

Remove the jewelry

If possible, remove the jewelry from the piercing — we recommend seeking help from a professional piercer or medical professional.

See a doctor

A doctor can assess the extent of the injury and suggest the best course of treatment.

Protect the affected area

Avoid sleeping on the side of the affected ear and touching it with dirty hands. Wear loose clothing and headwear to avoid putting pressure on the affected area.

💡 Take Note: Follow the doctor’s instructions diligently to promote healing and prevent further complications.

How to avoid shattering your cartilage

To avoid damage to your cartilage, we recommend using a hollow needle for the piercing. Avoid using a piercing gun to pierce your cartilage. A piercing gun uses a blunt piece of jewelry that forces its way through the tissue, causing damage. Piercing guns are also tricky to clean and sterilize, increasing the risk of infection.

Also, seek the services of an experienced and licensed piercer. Choosing the right studio can significantly impact your overall experience, ensuring a safe and hygienic piercing.

You can also consider getting other types of earlobe piercings. For instance, an orbital piercing is just as unconventional and offers an edgy look. The best part is that you can get it on the earlobe as well as on the cartilage. 

Say goodbye to shattered cartilage

Shattered cartilage is a severe and painful condition. However, seeking immediate medical attention will help you heal faster and prevent permanent damage. Remember to choose a licensed and reputable studio to reduce the chances of shattering your cartilage and enjoy a healthy and beautiful-looking piercing.

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