THINK BEFORE YOU INK
Consider long and hard before you get that tattoo.
I AM thinking about getting a tattoo. My brother has several, and they are no longer associated with the ‘ bad boy’ connotations they used to be. But I don’t understand how the ink gets permanently etched on your skin.
A tattoo is a permanent pigment mark and/ or design made on your skin. The pigment is inserted through pricking into your skin’s top layer.
The tattoo artist nowadays uses a handheld device that is pretty much like a sewing machine where one or more needles pierce your skin repeatedly. The needle inserts tiny ink droplets with every puncture of your skin.
Permanent makeup is also a form of tattooing. Some women, and even men, have permanent eyeliner tattooed on their eyelids.
Apparently, 25% of the population in the US have some sort of tattoo. Eventually, 50% of them want to have the tattoo removed.
So you have to think very carefully before getting a tattoo.
Wait. So my skin will be punctured. Will I bleed?
Yes. You will likely bleed. The procedure is done without painkillers, so you may experience quite a lot of pain, bleeding and swelling.
What are the complications that I can get from having a tattoo done?
Complications may vary from one individual to the next.
The most common complication is infection. Tattoo needles can be unsterilised, and a virus or bacteria left from a previous customer can be transmitted to you.
Even if the needles are sterilised, the tattoo equipment that holds them might not be because their design does not allow them to be cleaned effectively.
Many tattoo artists also do not have the time to clean the instruments in between customers.
Viruses transmitted this way include hepatitis B, hepatitis C and tetanus.
Moreover, because your skin is breached, bacterial skin infections can occur involving the staphylococcus and streptococcus species. These skin infections can give rise to inflammation, swelling and pus formation on the tattoo site.
Because of the risk of infection, in the US, you are not allowed to donate blood for one year after getting a tattoo.
Will I need antibiotics after getting a tattoo?
You will be prescribed antibiotics by a doctor only if you get a bacterial skin infection due to the tattooing process.
But you need to care for and clean the tattoo area with antiseptics for a week after you get the tattoo.
What other complications are there?
You may have an allergic reaction to the pigments, though this is rare. The tattoo dye colours of red, green, yellow and blue are particularly troublesome.
If you itch and have a rash at the tattoo site, this might mean having an allergic reaction. It is important to note that these allergic reactions can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
Tattoos may cause scarring, and if you are prone to keloid formation, this can leave an ugly scar on you. Keloids are scars that grow beyond their normal boundaries. If you are keloid prone, you should think very hard before getting a tattoo.
Nodules called granulomas can also form around the tattoo pigment, because your body sees the pigment as foreign material. Granulomas are reactions to inflammation.
And there is one more unusual complication that you should be aware of.
There have been reports that people with tattoos experiencing swelling or burning when going through MRI ( magnetic resonance imaging) machines. This is very rare. There have also been reports that tattoos can interfere with an MRI image.
This, however, is more common with permanent eyeliner types of tattoos. Mascara can actually do the same thing. The is probably because some eyeliner pigments have metals in them.
Is it easy to remove a tattoo?
No, it isn’t. Tattoos these days are removed using lasers. Lasers break up the pigment colours of the tattoo with a high- intensity light beam. The easiest colour to remove by laser is black, because it absorbs all laser wavelengths. Other colours are treated by different lasers. Another way is dermabrasion. The number of treatments to remove your tattoo will vary from person to person. Easy tattoos may be removed in two to four visits. Others may take up to 10 sessions.
Some tattoos may be impossible to remove without scarring. And your skin where the tattoo has been will never look normal again.
So be very sure before you tattoo your girlfriend’s name on your skin, because you may want to remove it if you both break up!
Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e- mail starhealth@ thestar. com. my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
Though not common, you may get an allergic reaction to the tattoo pigments. The tattoo dye colours of red, green, yellow and blue are particularly troublesome. — AFP