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LIFESTYLE & HEALTH: Secret Dangers of Tattooing

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By Dr. Vivek Sharma


"Ink to paper is thoughtful and Ink to flesh, hard-core. If Shakespeare were a tattooist we'd appreciate body art more." ~ Terri Guillements


The word tattoo is said to have two major derivations - from the Polynesian (from Greek) word 'ta' which means striking something and the Tahitian word 'tatu' which means to mark something. Centuries before rock stars and celebrities, tattoos were used by tribal men and women across the world, whether it was Maoris of New Zealand or the Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh, to mark out identity and territory.


Tattoos and Piercing are hot and happening today with more and more youngsters getting tattoos done on the body and getting various parts of their body pierced. Today, people with tattoos, body piercing and brands are everywhere. They are shown in advertisements on television shows and in magazines and newspaper photographs. Even a glamorous toy icon, Barbie Doll, comes with temporary tattoos.


If you are thinking of getting tattoos done then it is always advisable that you are totally informed about the pros and cons. Learn whether it is safe, how to care for tattoos and much-much more. It is always advisable to be more aware of its method, precautions, consequences etc.


Know the Risks


"Keeping in mind that tattoo parlors and piercing venues are not held to the same sterility standards as doctors' offices and hospitals." (Body Piercing and Tattoos, www.mayoclinic.com)
Tattoos breach the skin, which means that skin infection and other complications are possible, specific risks include:


I. Allergic reaction – Tattoo dye, especially red dye, can cause allergic skin reactions that cause an itchy rash that may continue for years after you get the tattoo.


II. Blood Born Diseases – If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contact blood borne diseases, including Hepatitis-B, Hepatitis-C, Tetanus and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) even with the use of a new needle, tattooing equipment is still difficult to sterilize.


III. Skin Infection – Tattoos can lead to bacterial infection, these are characterized by redness, swelling, pain and pus like discharge.


IV. Skin Problems – Sometimes lumps known as granulomas form around.


V. Tattoo Ink - especially red ink. Tattooing can also lead to raised areas caused by an over growth of scar tissue (keloids)


VI. MRI Complications – Tattoos or permanent makeup may cause swelling or burning in the affected area, during magnetic resonance imaging. In some cases – such as when a person with permanent eye liner has an MRI of the eye – tattoo pigments ay interfere with the quality of the image.


VII. Removal Problem – Despite advances in laser technologies, removing the tattoo is a painstaking process, usually involving several treatments and considerable expense.


Key Tips and Warnings


• Don't take tattoo's lightly : If they get infected, it could become very serious.


• Indication that an infection has occurred include : swelling, redness, heat or tenderness around the tattoo ; red streaks extending from the tattoo area, pus coming from the wound ; swollen or tender lymph nodes : or fever.


• Use an antibiotic ointment to treat your infected tattoo.


• Treating an infected tattoo by keeping it dry at all times, water is the biggest enemy of your tattoo when it is healing.


• If there is minimal damage to the skin, the speed of healing will depend on the amount of moisture in the area.


• Make sure to keep your tattoo out of Sun. The Sun will agitate it and the heat from the Sun will make it hurt plus it will cause your tattoo to fade. Whether it's color or black it will fade if exposed to the sunlight.


• As tattoos are placed on different part of body, some areas will be more prone to infection. A few of the things that cause infection are, clothes rubbing against it causing irritation and causing dirt to get into it.


• During the healing process, if you pick at your scabbing tattoo, it can cause infection as well. Your fingers and under your fingernails can get very dirty and full of bacteria.


Think Before you Ink


Dr. Vivek Sharma
A tattooing machine can puncture the skin 3,000 times a minute and everyone of these thousands of punctures create a hole 1/64 to 1/16th of an inch into the dermis that literary invites infection and disease. Every single puncture of the tattoo needle opens up the real possibility of AIDS, Hepatitis-B, Hepatitis-C, Tetanus, Tuberculosis and about any other blood borne diseases. With the average tattoo taking about 60 minutes that equals 1,80,000 tiny "Russian Roulette" punctures wounds providing a potential path to deadly infectious diseases.


However, with the rising demand of tattooing it is important to consider the risk factors and the safety concerns as well. It is not necessary that every person, who impressed tattoos will suffer from skin infections and other complications but it shouldn't ignored.


[Dr. Vivek Sharma is Consultant Paediatrician based in Jaipur. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Health Editor. He can be contacted at drvivek_sharma@rediffmail.com]
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