When Tattoos and Body Piercings Become a Health Risk, Reconsider

Doctor Still Knows Best

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For most of us, deciding whether or not to get a tattoo or piercing is simply a matter of personal choice. But for some, getting the desired body modification could adversely affect their well-being. Many in these situations are tempted to ignore the possible hazards and go for it anyway. I think many body art fans can empathize with a fellow enthusiast longing for ink or a piercing, despite the fact it could cause them harm. But empathy aside, there is just no substitute for common sense. For those who don't have any, consider this a wake-up call.

Illness and Disease
Medical conditions such as diabetes, illness such as cancer, and blood-borne disease such as Hepatitis are just a few examples of ailments that plague many people, even among the illustrated.

Diabetes is a rather common ailment. There are different strains of diabetes, some more severe than others. Consider how your body reacts to every day bumps and bruises. If a scratch or bruise is arduous, a tattoo or piercing is going to be much worse. In this case, it's just not worth it to put your body at this kind of risk. If you are a diabetic, talk to you doctor first to find out if they feel you would be a good (safe) candidate for body art.

Hepatitis is more common than we sometimes want to admit. It's also one disease that has been spread from dirty tattoo needles, and the only way it could have gotten there in the first place was from an infected client (and an irresponsible tattooist). Can you get a tattoo if you have Hepatitis? Usually. But, talk to your doctor first to see if this would be a wise decision. Those whose bodies are in a severely weakened state do not need to be adding any further burden to their immune system.

Prescription Medications
There are so many people taking some kind of prescription drug these days, it would be unreasonable to say anyone taking medication can't or shouldn't get a tattoo. However, drugs do alter our physical, circulatory and/or mental being, which means they can also affect our ability to heal.

Examples of known medication-related problems are any type of drugs that can thin the blood - even aspirin. Any time that you are wounded, your blood's ability to clot is its own defense. Without that protection, you are apt to bleed more during and after the tattoo process, and it could also cause unnecessary scabbing. If you are taking any kind of blood thinning medications, or have an disorder that causes you to bleed more than usual, it is best for you to not get a tattoo.

Accutane is another drug that is somewhat baffling to tattoo artists. According to an article published by the APT (Alliance of Professional Tattooists), "Clients using this medication will present skin that is very different from what we would hope for and expect in young skin. In addition to making the tattoo application difficult, it seems to interfere with the healing process." The reason is not yet known, but it appears that pushing ink into the skin of a client on this medication is next to impossible and can cause needless trauma to the skin. Once the drug has been cleared from the client's system, they may then choose to get the tattoo.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell?
So, you want the tattoo bad enough you decide to stop taking your medication so you can get it. Or you decide to just keep your condition a secret and not let the artist know about it. No big deal, right? Wrong!

That would be an incredibly dim (ok, stupid) and irresponsible thing to do. First of all, if you have a serious health condition that warrants medical intervention, stopping your prescription could be a fatal choice. Is a tattoo worth your life and health? Granted, if you're taking acne medication, it probably won't hurt to suspend it for a little while, but how do you know how long it takes to get it out of your circulation? You're going to have to talk to your doctor. (Continued on Page 2)

As far as telling your tattoo artist your medical history goes, it's true that you're not required to divulge this information. Even most release forms don't ask for specifics, although they may ask if there is any reason you think getting the procedure would not be safe for you. Don't be a fool - just be honest. Trust me, tattoo artists understand the "need" to get ink despite the odds. And many of them have had to deal with health problems of their own. But if they know what to expect, they can be prepared for possible complications. They are not there to judge you, and if it's at all possible for them to give you the tattoo without putting you or themselves at serious risk, they will.

But My Doctor is Against Body Art!
Then maybe you should get a new doctor! Seriously, though, I get this a lot from people that write me about medical issues and I recommend they speak to their physician. They cringe at the thought because they already "know" what the answer is going to be because their physician isn't favorable to body art. Well, that very well may be, but let me remind you (and feel free to remind your physician) that they are paid for their professional opinion, not their personal beliefs. I don't care what they personally feel about you wanting a tattoo or piercing - their job is to tell you if it is a medically sound or dangerous option. If they can't keep their individual ideology to themselves, then maybe it really is time to find a new doctor.

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