Survey Suggests Tattoo Troubles Are Common
Based on a survey by dermatologists at the New York University Langone Medical Center, the risks from having tattoos can follow a person for years after getting inked. In a small study, they found one in 10 people with tattoos said they developed side effects such as infection, swelling, redness and itching–in some cases, the symptoms persisted for years.
For their study, published in Contact Dermatitis, the team surveyed 300 people in New York’s Central Park who had tattoos. They found that 10 percent had experienced issues shortly after receiving the tattoo, such as swelling, bacterial infection or itching. However, they also learned that of the 10 percent that initially experienced complications, six out of 10 said they continued to suffer from itching or swelling, sometimes for several years. Some of those people said they neglected to make an appointment with their doctor.
Tattoo artists are required to use freshly packaged, sanitary needles with each use, as well as fresh gloves and ink wells. But the team said that although sanitary regulations are in place, often the ink itself isn’t as closely regulated, and few people who get tattoos know what chemicals or possible irritants may be in them. The researchers noted that black inks are sometimes made with a carbon base, while red dyes may be made with “azo-based hues” - a nitrogen compound. And though there is no clear cause, the team believes the carbon or nitrogen may be what triggers these adverse reactions in the skin.
They researchers advised that before getting a tattoo, a person should understand the long-term physical risks that go along with it, and if symptoms arise, to see a doctor. For those with chronic symptoms, they suggest tattoo removal may be the best option, and should be performed only by a licensed professional.