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Medical Risks of Getting Tattoos

Posted Aug 08 2013 8:07am

Many teens and others think tattoos are "cool", while countless others regard them as "tacky". My concern is the medical problems which can occur with tattoos. Some of these are serious and can even be life-threatening. A good article in the new American Academy of Pediatrics Newsletter by Shayne Starr points out that "some teens tattoo themselves with a homemade gun or sewing needle" which seems painful to me. She also notes that tattoos can cause allergic reactions from the dyes causing "itching, swelling, and pain at the tattoo site-even years  later."

Bumps (granulomas) or keloids can also form and are hard to treat effectively. However, the biggest concern is the possibility of HIV/AIDS infection, if dirty needles are used. Hepatitis C, tetanus, Hepatitis B, and other infections can also occur. Tattoos can be removed by doctors with lasers, but this can be expensive and take considerable time, if the tattoos are large.  Many professionals have had to have their tattoos removed when applying for jobs in companies that do not allow them.

One of my medical school classmates is retired and volunteers in a clinic where tattoos are removed.  They have a long waiting list of people who are desperate to have their tattoos removed. So it is best to think twice if you or your children decide to get tattoos.

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