Thursday, September 13, 2012

Think Before You Ink

If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, it could come with an unwanted side effect: a skin infection. Recently, health officials linked an increase in skin infections caused by tuberculosis-related bacteria to contaminated ink – not dirty needles or unsanitary tattoo parlors. While cases of infection caused by the contaminated ink have been confirmed across the United States, Fox News reported that the largest outbreak was in Rochester, N.Y. There, 19 people showed the same raised, bumpy rash covering their tattoos.

Historically, the health risks associated with getting a tattoo were infections such as hepatitis, staph or tetanus. These were typically caused by unsanitary conditions or unsafe practices. The recent infection outbreaks caused by ink used at otherwise sanitary tattoo parlors is an additional cause for concern. "Even if you get a tattoo from a facility that does everything right, it's not risk free," said Dr. Byron Kennedy, deputy director of the health department in New York's Monroe County. Health officials advise tattoo artists and ink makers to use only sterile water to dilute ink to prevent contamination.

As a dermatologist, I recommend thinking twice before making any permanent alterations to your skin; however, if you do decide to get a tattoo, be sure to ask what type of ink is being used and make sure that the parlor you choose takes all necessary precautions to prevent infections. Furthermore, if you are concerned that your tattoo may be infected, seek immediate medical attention.

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