Tattoos Leave Mark on Health for Many

TattoosTattoos are more popular than ever. Most getting tattoos do not realize, however, that one in 10 who get an inking get a mark on their health for years to come besides the marks on their skin, according to new research.

David Beckham, Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus and Angelina Jolie are just some of the celebrities whose admirable, inked physiques have tempted others to face the needle. But they undoubtedly went to top notch artists to have their ink applied. So, they probably did not get the skin problems and infections that have plagued many looking to decorate their bodies.

As tattoos have grown in popularity, they have become commonplace instead of edgy or counterculture. They have even been seen in museums as an art form. According to the British Association of Dermatologies, 20 percent of British adults have tattoos now. Research conducted by Harris Polls shows a similar rate in the U.S. The percentages are much higher for those under age 50.

Researchers in the U.S., concerned about problems health officials have observed in those who have gotten inked, randomly interviewed 300 people encountered in New York’s Central Park about their experience in getting a tattoo. Stopped in two heavily traveled park spots, the participants were nearly evenly divided between men and women (149 to 151). The results show that the initial pain and scaring were just the beginning of issues faced by at least 10 percent.

The study showed that 4 percent developed a rash (skin that was either itchy, raised, scaly or filled with edema, for a brief period after getting inked. Six percent had skin problems that lasted more than four months. However, nearly two-thirds of those who experienced long-lasting rashes after getting a new tattoo reported having allergies; one-third had no reactions to the inking. The negative effects can be quite striking, according to Dr. Marie Leger, an assistant professor at New York University, who is a dermatologist and was the study’s coauthor. “The colored portion (of a tattoo) can sometimes raise up as much as a centimeter above the skin,” she explained, adding that it “can affect the texture of the skin and the way the tattoo looks.”

Red ink seemed to created more of a skin reaction than other colors. The president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, Mike Martin, noted that a rash appearing is uncommon, but acknowledged that “some folks’ bodies do not like red pigments.” While rashes typically appear in the healing stage, he said they can show up 12 months later. “It is usually in the site where red pigments were tattooed into the skin,” Martin added, although he said other colors have had similar reactions on tattoos performed in other countries.

While the study is not geographically diverse and did not include information about whether the tattoo’s location on the body made a difference, it does suggest people seeking ink should be cautious about where they go for it. Leger and her team advise avoiding red ink and keeping the site clean as it heals. They also tell recipients of tattoos to not be stoic and ignore symptoms that may flare up, so the mark left by the ink is on the skin not on the person’s health for many months.

By Dyanne Weiss

Sources:
Daily Mail: How tattoos leave one in ten battling health problems: Inkings said to cause swelling, skin irritation and complications that linger for years
NBC News: ‘Itchy, Scaly’ Tattoo Ink Allergies More Common Than Thought
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Tattoo-related skin allergy? It could be your ink color
Harris Polls: One in Five U.S. Adults Now Has a Tattoo

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