Rethink Your Ink: How Tattoos May Be Harmful

Rethink Your Ink: How Tattoos May Be Harmful

Over the last ten years tattoos seem to have become more popular. Everywhere you look, from teens to twilights and everyone in-between, there is some sort of body art lingering about.

Once a demonstration of tribal connection, tattoos are now a sign of ‘large group self-expressionists’ that often feel part of an elite group that can even relate to reality television about their body art. Yet, recently there has been some concern regarding a tattoo’s long term effects.

If a tattoo is something you want, you may want to rethink your ink simply for the sake of your future health.

How it Fares

In 2012, Harris Interactive (a Nielsen polling company) researched the various perceptions of how tattoos fare in the United States as one in five adults possess one.

Here is what they found,

Those with tattoos:

  • Most have never regretted getting a tattoo.
  • Three in ten say it makes them feel more sexy.
  • One-quarter say having a tattoo makes them feel rebellious.
  • 21% say it makes them feel attractive or strong.
  • 16% say it makes them feel spiritual

Those without tattoos:

  • At least two in five say that people with tattoos are less attractive or sexy.
  • One-quarter say that people with tattoos are less intelligent, healthy or spiritual.
  • Having a tattoo seems to make little difference in non-tattooed people’s perceptions regarding strength and athleticism.
  • Half of those without a tattoo say people with tattoos are more rebellious.

Past Complications

There was a time that certain tattoo inks contained high amounts of metals in their formulas. This  held potential risks if the ink accidentally made it into the bloodstream rendering possible systemic toxicity.

The ink metals were finally removed when MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology was invented. Any metal that comes in contact with MRI waves will immediately heat up and be drawn to the MRI machine. Therefore, anyone who has an old tattoo must have it protected if receiving an MRI or skip the MRI altogether.

Smithsonian magazine cites the results of research regarding these adverse reactions,

“During MRI, skin or eye irritation — even first degree burns — can result when dyes in tattoos, even from tattooed eyeliner, heat up. Covering them isn’t likely to help, and if skin irritation or burning happens, the MRI must be stopped at once to avoid a burn.”

Aside from being painful, tattoos with magnetic ink can also distort the MRI image.

“MRI involves the use of a strong magnetic field to obtain images of structures within the body, and the metallic compounds in tattoo pigments, especially iron oxide, distort that field.”

There was also the rampant spread of Hepatitis C, a lifelong affliction that could end up being deadly. Hep C was linked to many unclean tattoo needles as tattoo parlors remained a back room, unchecked practice.

In a study by New York University Langone Medical Center it was concluded that,

“Tattooing is associated with HCV [hepatitis C virus] infection, even among those without traditional HCV risk factors such as IDU [injection drug use] and blood transfusion prior to 1992.”

Today, tattoo artists adhere to strict state guidelines requiring sterile equipment and extreme safety protocols.

Current Complications

In a recent study by New York University Langone Medical Center it was found that tattoos could lead to various health problems.

Dr. Marie Leger, an assistant professor in NYU Langone’s Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology comments,

“We were rather alarmed at the high rate of reported chronic complications tied to getting a tattoo…Given the growing popularity of tattoos, physicians, public health officials, and consumers need to be aware of the risks involved.”

Some adverse effects that were reported in a small research study by Dr. Leger and her team cite several complications that lasted longer than 4 months (and in some cases years) which included:

  • Delayed healing
  • Severe itching
  • Swelling
  • Rash

There was also indications of black and red ink being the most problematic dyes that were linked to several complaints.

If you experience any pain or other negative signs after receiving a tattoo, immediately see your doctor. If you are considering getting a tattoo, you may want to rethink your ink and remain a virgin human canvas instead.



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