THINK BE­FORE YOU INK

Con­sider long and hard be­fore you get that tat­too.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

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

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