Thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of people in the 21st century have tattoo designs on their bodies and the art of tattooing is big business, so the associated risks have been kept fairly quiet. Just be aware that our skin is our first line of protection from a huge number of diseases & bacteria, so obviously, tattoos are an attack on that protective skin that we need for maximal health.
The tattooing process is familiar to those who are interested in this ‘art’. The "how to" has been shown repeatedly on popular TV shows and the simple fact is that many of us either already have a tattoo or have at least considered the idea. Tattooing is done with a needle (shudder) which is used to pierce your skin, thus depositing ink droplets in the skin. The tattooing procedure may take a few minute – or all day – depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo. The pain associated with the process may be mild or even severe. And, because the skin is broken, there is almost always some minor bleeding.
So, what exactly are the risks involved in tattoo designs on your body?
Many people develop infections of the skin after a tattoo. These can be mild infections that clear by themselves and without any treatment or medicine, or they may be a result of using a dirty needle and, at the very worst, may result in hepatitis or HIV. But of course, a reputable tattoo parlor doesn’t use a corrupted needle from one customer on a different one. If a tattoo is in your future, make darn sure that a new tattoo kit is used for your new art work.
Allergy is another risk. Some people are allergic to the ink and can develop minor or severe reactions, just like with any allergy. These include symptoms appearing on the skin, such as redness, itching, swelling, blistering, crusting, rash, eruptions, or hives (itchy bumps or welts). Expanding beyond your skin, a tattoo can cause wheezing, tightness, cough, shortness of breath, swelling of the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, or throat, headache, stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and eyes that are red, (bloodshot), itchy, swollen, or watery. In rare cases, an allergic reaction can be life-threatening (known as anaphylaxis).
Scarring can develop either from having a tattoo design created or from have one removed. Granulomas are small knots or bumps that form around something that the body perceives as foreign substances, such as particles of tattoo pigment. Some people have complained of swelling or pain in and around the area tattoos.
Research is being done to study how the body breaks down the composition of the ink pigments and what happens to these elements. Some possibilities are that the body can digest and destroy the ink in the same way that it destroys bacteria. Anther possibility is that the ink is metabolized and excreted.
The last problem with the popular body art is that it may fade over time but, even so, they’re considered to be permanent. The tattoo that seemed so cool as a teen might not be so welcome to a banker or a grandparent. Removal can be time consuming, expensive and even painful. The most effective method is laser treatment. This usually requires several visits over a period of weeks or even months. Results vary and since some ink colors are harder to remove than others, you might not be able to completely remove a no longer wanted design.
Tattoo designs really shouldn’t be done on an impulse. It’s wise to consider if getting a tattoo has implications that you might not want to face at some point in your life. Yes, tattoos are a popular fad now but they do have consequences.