Love Hurts: Hickey Today, Stroke Tomorrow?

By Erica Gleeman on April 19, 2017
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The website whatisahickey.com describes a hickey as the following.

“A Hickey (Hickie), also sometimes called a love bite or kiss mark, is a bruise caused by biting, aggressive kissing or sucking of soft skin, usually around the neck or on the arm. Throughout your body, you have many different types of blood vessels that help transport blood around. The smallest blood vessels in your body are called capillaries. When somebody sucks very hard on soft skin, they can cause the capillaries just beneath the surface to rupture, letting blood seep out into the surrounding tissue. So, hickeys, like bruises, are actually broken blood vessels just under the surface of the skin that blood has come out of. The blood that has collected and clotted under the skin is generally red at first but then, as it is no longer getting oxygen, the blood dries out and turns into a darker purple or brown color.”

Hickeys often are thought of as inscribed markings of love. A picture is worth a thousand words, and if a hickey were a picture then it would express a thousand passionate ways of displaying your love and affection openly. No wonder hickeys are so popular in the college culture where romance is high.

Strangely enough, hickeys are often reported as a mark of possession by the person giving them and are seen as a mild form of sadism (getting pleasure from inflicting pain). Hickeys are viewed in a sexual light and many people do not like to advertise their sexual behavior in this regard. It makes you wonder why having someone give bruises with their mouth is deemed as attractive, whereas a normal bruise on your body would not be. The neck is the most advertised area hickeys are given as the neck is in very plain sight and is also an erogenous zone.

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Think hickeys are harmless, particularly on college campuses, where hickeys are a commonplace? Think again.

A hickey is caused by blood vessels bursting which create the bruise-like mark. Hickeys are not likely something you learned about in sexual education classes, or even with your parents while having “the talk.” Sexual wellness nowadays is primarily focused on safe sex to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, also known as STI’s, and from conceiving a baby.

Yet here is something important you should know: hickeys can actually hurt you. The deep suction of a hickey can cause a blood clot, which ultimately can cause a stroke, and even lead to fatal means. It is rare to die from a hickey but it is possible it can happen. There have been two cases that led to strokes within the last decade.

Hickey Horror

Last year, during the end of August in the 2016 calendar year, a 24-year-old woman gave her 17-year-old boyfriend from Mexico City a hickey. His name was Julio Macias Gonzalez and later in the evening, Gonzalez was at dinner with his family when he started convulsing at the dinner table. This innocent hickey took a turn for the worst, and a blood clot formed in his neck. The blood clot traveled to his brain and transformed into a fatal stroke, reported by the boy’s local news in Mexico.

According to Popular Science, “In 2010, the New Zealand Medical Journal described the case of a 44-year-old woman who experienced weakness in her arm several days after getting a hickey. She recovered after being treated with blood thinners. The physicians who wrote up her report described the incident as ‘an uncommon mode of blunt trauma’ to the neck and carotid artery.”

This New Zealand woman received a hickey from her partner which has been linked to her paralysis and a minor stroke. She was the first documented case of a hickey-related stroke, until last year with Julio Macias Gonzalez who wasn’t so lucky to live.

Does this mean you should be afraid of hickeys? No.

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You should not be paranoid when it comes to love bites, but you should just be aware that it is possible to receive a blood clot from a hickey and know to be careful. Aside from the fatal dangers of hickeys, the bruising can last up to a two week time period. Hickeys can cause a great deal of swelling that can treat its inflammation properties with a mere ice pack. Seek medical attention if you receive discomforting symptoms after receiving a hickey, or from other sensual endeavors. There is no shame in seeking medical help.

Sexual-related injuries are actually quite common on a day-to-day basis even if hickey-related injuries are exquisitely rare. Common injuries range from muscle pulls and fractured body parts to heart attacks; carnal catastrophes are no stranger to the heat of passion. Who knew love could hurt so much?

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Erica Gleeman is a New York native, but was raised in Boca Raton, Florida. She is a senior at Florida State University currently pursuing a degree in English - Editing, Writing, and Media with a minor in General Business. The Editing, Writing, and Media track re-conceives the English major for the 21st century. It still preserves the traditional core of English, the creation and interpretation of texts, by combining practice in writing and editing with the study of cultural history and criticism. However, it transforms both writing practice and critical study to confront the new challenges of digital technology, visual culture, and the Internet. The Editing, Writing, and Media major uniquely prepares for communications related skills.

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