GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- It’s an extreme fashion statement that’s more permanent than many realize.
As many people expanded the holes in their ears as teenagers, that same generation is now looking for a way to 'fix it.' We’re talking about expanded earlobes most commonly called ‘gauges.’
At 25-years-old Rachel Krauss is learning the painful and expensive lesson that what you do in your youth affects your future.
“So what happens when somebody puts a gauge in their ear is over time they slowly expand beyond the natural contour of the earlobe,” Dr. Ryan Mitchell, MD, FRCSC said.
“It’s a process so you have to do it over time and you stretch it little by little,” Krauss said.
She’s one of many in a new wave of patients visiting Dr. Mitchell at the Bengtson Center for Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery, having her gauged earlobes repaired.
“I think that was just kind of like the season in my life and the people I was hanging out with and it was just, that’s what we did,” Krauss said.
The birth of her first daughter had her rethinking her 'edgy' accessories.
“I think there is still a stigma that comes and you know maybe a perception of rebellion,” she said.
Rachel invited us to tag along and observe, as Dr. Mitchell stitched her back together.
“What I’m going to be doing is take out that centralized segment of epithelial tissue and primarily closing so that it will scar back in,” Dr. Mitchell said. He says Krauss is lucky and really a best case scenario.
“Larger gauged ears, you’re potentially looking at a total lower lobe reconstruction and what that requires is amputating and starting from scratch,” he said.
It’s an all out-of-pocket expense and is considered cosmetic surgery, not paid for by insurance. Krauss said this procedure cost her $750.
“It costs a lot more to fix them then it does to put them in,” she said.
But she’s found her ear gauges may cost her more in the long run, limiting employment opportunities.
“The career path now that I’m going into is different than when I was 18,” she said. “I was looking into going into the military too, into the Navy and everything was all lined up and then it was like ‘do you have gauges,’ and I was like yeah and they told me, ‘well, you can`t join.’”
Leading to the surgery, which Dr. Mitchell has seen an increased need for
“It was something that was relatively underground 10 to 15 years ago but people were still doing it,” he said.
Krauss says she has can’t say she 'regrets' her decision to gauge her ears but would have some words of advice to others, her daughter in particular.
“No, don’t do it. Don’t do it unless she wants to pay the money to get them fixed when she’s older.”