By Linda Ifeoma Nzemecha
Tattoos look good and are in fashion. If you are going to get a tattoo you will be more likely to have it forever, Americans have the highest number of tattoos. Tattoos have become more and more popular in recent years. Tattoos are fast becoming a mark of the 21st century, with one quarter or more of those under the age of 30 adorning their skin with at least one. Whether driven by the urge for personal expression or just plain youthful impulsiveness, most people get tattooed without a clue about the health implications of this invasive skin-puncturing procedure. According to the Pew Research Center, almost four of every 10 people born after 1980 have at least one tattoo. A tattoo is a permanent mark or design made on your skin with pigments inserted through pricks into the skin’s top layer. Typically, the tattoo artist uses a hand-held machine that acts much like a sewing machine, with one or more needles piercing the skin repeatedly. With every puncture, the needles insert tiny ink droplets. Tattoos are a common form of self-expression, but they also damage the skin and can cause complications.
Possible complications of tattoos include:
1. Infections such as HIV and hepatitis due to re-use of needles:
If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, reuse of needles for tattooing can cause severe blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B and C. One should avoid getting tattoos done from illegal tattoo parlors as the chance of infectious disease is highest at these places. The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has warned about the risk of tattoo parlors transmitting viruses like HIV and the cancer-causing hepatitis C. Because of this, blood banks typically ban donations from people who have been tattooed in the previous 12 months.
2. Allergic reactions to temporary and permanent tattoo inks:
Reaction to tattoo inks, whether it is a temporary tattoo or a permanent, is common. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, and yellow and blue dyes can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo. If someone is allergic to ink they may not know that until the tattoo is done. Studies indicate that red and yellow inks are most likely to cause allergic reactions to the skin. These reactions are generally triggered by exposure to sunlight.
Tattoos may lead to scar tissue. As the body attempts to remove the foreign substance (ink), bumps or small knots may form around the tattoo. Some skin conditions can also worsen due to tattoos. If you are prone to keloids, you could develop one. Tattooing, therefore, can lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue
4. Skin Infections:
Tattoo sites can become infected even with a sterile needle. This can happen if ink is contaminated by bacteria. Symptoms of an infection are: red rashes, swelling, and pain. It can take 2-3 weeks for an infection to appear. Sometimes bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink.
5. MRI Complications:
Swelling or burning can happen in tattooed areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams due to the tattoos. Designs containing large areas of black ink can be problematic because black ink contains iron oxide; the iron is heated by MRI scanner either by inducing an electrical current or hysteresis. Newer inks are much safer, find out what your artist uses. The FDA of United States of America has also warned patients that if they have an MRI scan, their tattoos can swell or burn, presumably related to the metal in some inks.
6. Skin discoloration
The part of skin where tattoo is done is discolored permanently. Even though over a period of times this discoloration fades away but it is never healed completely. So, one should keep this in mind before opting for a tattoo.
7. Blood donation denial
If you have had a tattoo done within the last week, you may not be allowed to donate blood because of the risk of infection. The wait can be longer if the tattoo parlor is not regulated.
8. Blood thinners
The tattooing process can be affected if the person is on blood thinners because of excessive bleeding. Ink finds it difficult to get into the skin due to increased bleeding. The aftercare healing is a long process.
A hematoma (a swelling of blood) may appear if a blood vessel is punctured during the tattooing procedure. These haematomas can either appear as one large bruise or as halos around the tattoo.
10. Burden on lymphatic system:
Inflammation of the draining lymph nodes may occur if larger particles accumulate in the lymph nodes. However, if the particles are smaller, they are carried away and do not accumulate.