Field of Science

TMI Friday: Taking a Bite out of Love

Love isn't commonly encountered within the medical literature. The romantic lives of two people in love is a subject that rarely requires the attention of a doctor.
But occasionally in the violent throes of a passionate embrace, there is an emphasis on the violence. With this in mind, let us consider the Hickey.

Once when I was in school, I met up with my friend and the first thing I said to him was "What the f**k happened to your neck ? Did you get attacked ?" at which point I realised the girl next to him started to giggle.
I later learned that during the violent throes of passion, that occasional nibble may occur, leaving a bruise, or just a red mark. But on occasion, some couples go a little bit too far. This is where medical professionals get involved.
In a set of case reports published by the British Journal of Surgery in 1990, 7 cases of what are described as "Traumatic" love bites are reported. I shall summarise them below

  1. Patient 1, a 35 year old man, came into hospital complaining of a hard lump in his shoulder that had been bothering him for long time. It was a worrying lump, and the doctors initially suggested that it was some sort of cyst. When they removed the cyst, they were dismayed to find... a plastic tooth. It turned out that he had engaged in intimate relations with a lady who was not only dressed as a vampire, but possessed an incredible commitment to the lifestyle.
  2. Patient 2 arrived at the hospital with an abscess in his neck that was swollen with bacteria, caused by a particularly violent love bite that had happened 3 weeks previously
  3. Patient 3 arrived at the emergency room, bleeding from the jugular vein that was caused by deep bite marks that had been inflicted 2 hours earlier under undisclosed circumstances.
  4. Patient 4, a 26 year old woman had been suffering from cellulitis in the neck for about 3 days before she went to hospital, and later confessed it was due to "ferocious love biting" by her boyfriend, and in response, the surgeons gave her a course of antibiotics and also a tetanus shot.
  5. Patient 5 appeared to accept some form of responsibility for the infected wound on his neck, as the wounds were inflicted after he had returned from a long holiday by his "frustrated" girlfriend.
  6. I feel sorry for Patient 6, who had to cut off her honeymoon early after her drunken husband accidentally bit off her left nipple. The doctors don't mention the fate of this relationship, but I would be very surprised if "Divorce" was not a key feature of it.
  7. Patient 7 suggested that the primary reason for the infected injury in the left breast was due to the short stature of her paramour.
Only in two of these cases is the injury in itself severe enough to merit an immediate visit to hospital. The majority of the problems caused by these human bites come from infection. The human mouth is generally full to the brim with bacteria, that could potentially become hazardous if introduced into a wound.
When one attempts a lovebite, always remember to take a sensible nibble, if you end up with a mouthful of blood then you are probably doing it wrong. Unless you are a vampire, in which case, check that you still have all of your teeth at the end of it.

Al Fallouji M. (1990). Traumatic love bites, British Journal of Surgery, 77 (1) 100-101. DOI:

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