Medical Risks of Tattoos and Piercings

People of all ages get inked and pierced all over their bodies. Both are exceedingly common nowadays, but while piercing and tattooing parlors are well regulated, there are still health and safety concerns to consider before making your next appointment.


Medical Risks of Getting a Tattoo

The potential complications involved with getting a tattoo include:

Allergic Reaction:
Mainly to the dyes used in tattoo artistry. A reaction may occur upon contact with dyes, shortly after a tattoo is completed, or years later.

Infection:
Infection may occur as a result of poorly cleaned or unsanitary equipment; it’s also a possibility in situations where aftercare instructions are not followed. If a tattooist re-uses tools and does not use sanitary practices, bloodborne diseases like Hepatitis B or HIV are a possibility.

Skin Deformities:
Granulomas and keloids may develop in some cases.

MRI Interference:
If ever you need to get an MRI in the future, your tattoo may interfere with the magnetic resonance imaging equipment.

Swelling, Burning, Itching:
These side effects depend entirely on the individual. Some people who get tattoos do not experience any of these symptoms. Proper aftercare is the best way to avoid uncomfortable skin irritation.

Avoid complications by vetting your tattoo artist and tattoo facility before getting inked. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the steps being taken (or not taken) during the procedure. Always follow proper aftercare steps. Being diligent during the healing process will ensure your tattoo heals thoroughly. Refer to written instructions provided by your tattoo artist. They should include directions to apply an antibiotic cream or ointment. Healing may take up to two weeks.

Remember that a tattoo is permanent. Tattoo removal is possible, but the procedure is painful, tedious, costly, and leaves behind plenty of scarring.


Medical Risks of Getting a Piercing

During a piercing, because the skin is literally pierced,
there are several potential side effects that vary according to the body part being modified. Common piercing-related issues include:

Allergic Reactions:
You may have an allergic reaction to certain metal jewelry. Talk to your piercer if you have any metal allergies so that they know to avoid using certain piercing materials.

Itching:
As a piercing heals, the wound may begin to itch. Avoid the temptation to scratch at your piercing, which can delay healing.

Scarring:
A poorly executed piercing or one done in a sensitive location (e.g., in a spot with cartilage) can leave behind scarring.

Infection:
A swollen red area that’s hot to the touch is a sign that your piercing is infected. If the situation persists and swelling doesn’t subside (some swelling is typical with a very fresh piercing), make an appointment with a physician.

Some bodily areas are more prone to problems and complications. Cartilage piercings, as well as certain oral and dermal piercings, are more likely to produce side effects than a simple ear lobe piercing. Cartilage infections are challenging to treat because they receive very little blood flow, so proper care is extremely important for nose and ear piercings. Consider, too, that piercings in the genital area may have an impact on contraceptive integrity. Almost any piercing has the potential to cause trauma and tear the skin in situations where it gets caught on clothing or other items. Oral piercings may interfere with gum health or wear down enamel if placed improperly or if the jewelry chosen is too large. There is also a choking hazard with oral piercings.

Contrary to popular belief, however, oral piercings are not necessarily guaranteed to lead to infection. Oral piercings heal faster than those in other areas. The saliva in your mouth also has antibacterial properties, which helps prevent infection.

Piercings take a lot longer than tattoos to heal, so you have to deal with an open wound on your body for several weeks (or several months in some cases). Regularly cleaning newly pierced areas and accompanying jewelry is a vital step in preventing infection. Avoid touching the pierced area unless you’re cleaning it.

Certain people should shy away from piercings. Anyone with an autoimmune disorder or those taking immunosuppressants should not get piercings as the body’s ability to fight infection may be hampered.

Regardless of where you decide to get a piercing, choose a reputable, sanitary establishment. Be sure to also keep up with aftercare instructions from your piercer. A good piercer (or tattooist) will request to see you in a follow-up session to change the jewelry once any swelling has gone down. Tattooists also usually offer free or discounted touch-ups once the initial art has healed.

Written by: Steph Coelho

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