Thursday, October 21, 2010

Health Care and Tattoos

When you start thinking about how cool it might be to have your body turned into a walking art gallery, it may be in your best interest to stop and think about the effects that a tattoo has on your skin and your health.  Apart from any social aspect relative to getting a permanent picture of your favorite relative, friend, animal, saying, or any other item you can think of placed on your skin, remember that this form of personal expression can create certain health issues both immediate and long term. For generations, people have been getting tattooed, and the science of this art form has improved since the days of natives getting their skin pierced with bamboo needles and natural pigmentation from home made dyes. And for the most part, assuming you are having the tattoo done by a reputable artist, the tattoo business is a fast growing and somewhat safe industry. 

According to DesignBoom.com, the word tattoo is said to has two major derivations- from the polynesian word ‘ta’ which means striking something and the tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’.
The history of tattoo began over 5000 years ago and is as diverse as the people who wear them. Tattoos are created by inserting colored materials beneath the skins surface. the first tattoos probably were created by accident. someone had a small wound, and rubbed it with a hand that was dirty with soot and ashes from the fire. once the wound had healed, they saw that a mark stayed permanently. Despite the social sciences' growing fascination with tattooing, and the immense popularity of tattoos themselves, the practice has not left much of a historical record. Evidence, though, has been found in Europe, Egypt, Asia, and other parts of the world where tattooing was a popular or often used way to declare social status.


The purpose of tattooing has varies from culture to culture and its place on the time line, according to PowerVerbs.com. But there are commonalties that prevail form the earliest known tattoos to those being done on college students and adults today all over the world. Tattoos have always had an important role in ritual and tradition. Throughout history tattoos have signified membership in a clan or society. Even today groups like the Hells Angels tattoo their particular group symbol. TV and movies have used the idea of a tattoo indication membership in a secret society numerous times. It has been believed that the wearer of an image calls the spirit of that image. The ferocity of a tiger would belong to the tattooed person. That tradition holds true today shown by the proliferation of images of tigers, snakes, and bird of prey.

Although tattoos are very popular now, tattoos involve needles and blood, and they carry several risks. These include transmission of diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis and possibly HIV. When tattoo artists follow all the correct sterilization and sanitation procedures, risks for disease transmission are relatively low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has not been a documented case of HIV transmission from a tattoo. However, doctors warn that non-sterile tattooing practices can lead to the transmission of syphilis, hepatitis B and other infectious organisms.  Infections can occur in new tattoos, especially without appropriate aftercare. Some people also experience allergic reactions to tattoo inks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a tattoo is a permanent mark or design made on your skin with pigments inserted through pricks into the skin's top layer. Typically, the tattoo artist uses a hand-held machine that acts much like a sewing machine, with one or more needles piercing the skin repeatedly. With every puncture, the needles insert tiny ink droplets. The process — which is done without anesthetics and may last up to several hours for a large tattoo — causes a small amount of bleeding and slight to potentially significant pain.

Although the pigments used may have U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for other purposes, the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks. Finally, some people experience pain or burning during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations because of metallic pigments. Some doctors have also reported interference and distorted MRI images from permanent makeup pigments. In addition, most states place restrictions on whether people who have tattoos can donate blood. Because of the danger of hepatitis, the American Red Cross will not accept blood from someone who has been tattooed in the past year unless the tattoo parlor is state-regulated. Most states do not regulate tattoo parlors.



According to Discovery Health, tattoo artists must also take special safety measures regarding their hands. Gloves help prevent disease transmission from bodily fluids, but bacteria thrive in the warm, damp environment they create. This means that artists must:
•Wash hands thoroughly and often.
•Inspect hands for cuts or sores and cover them with bandages.
•Remove hangnails and keep nails short to prevent punctures to gloves.
•Refrain from tattooing when experiencing lesions, dermatitis or allergic reactions.

Laws require minors to have a parent's permission to get a tattoo. So, some adolescents get tattoos from friends or amateurs, who use makeshift tools like pens and paper clips with little if any sanitary precautions. This is extremely dangerous, since proper equipment and sanitary measures protect people from disease and infection.

According to EveryTattoo.com, it is extremely important to make sure that all tattooing equipment is clean and sterilized before use. Even if the needles are sterilized or never have been used, it is important to understand that in some cases the equipment that holds the needles cannot be sterilized reliably due to its design. In addition, the person who receives a tattoo must be sure to care for the tattooed area properly during the first week or so after the pigments are injected. There have been reports of people with tattoos or permanent makeup who experienced swelling or burning in the affected areas when they underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This seems to occur only rarely and apparently without lasting effects.  However, the risks of avoiding an MRI when your doctor has recommended one are likely to be much greater than the risks of complications from an interaction between the MRI and tattoo or permanent makeup. Instead of avoiding an MRI, individuals who have tattoos or permanent makeup should inform the radiologist or technician of this fact in order to take appropriate precautions, avoid complications, and assure the best results.


Although allergic reactions to tattoo pigments are rare, when they happen they may be particularly troublesome because the pigments can be hard to remove. Occasionally, people may develop an allergic reaction to tattoos they have had for years. Although tattoos may be satisfactory at first, they sometimes fade. Also, if the tattooist injects the pigments too deeply into the skin, the pigments may migrate beyond the original sites, resulting in a blurred appearance. Another cause of dissatisfaction is that the human body changes over time, and styles change with the season. The permanent makeup that may have looked flattering when first injected may later clash with changing skin tones and facial or body contours. People who plan to have facial cosmetic surgery are advised that the appearance of their permanent makeup may become distorted. The tattoo that seemed stylish at first may become dated and embarrassing. And changing tattoos or permanent makeup is not as easy as changing your mind. Despite advances in laser technology, removing a tattoo is a painstaking process, usually involving several treatments and considerable expense. Complete removal without scarring may be impossible. 


Temporary tattoos, such as those applied to the skin with a moistened wad of cotton, fade several days after application. Most contain color additives approved for cosmetic use on the skin, according to EveryTattoo.com. However, the FDA has issued an import alert for several foreign-made temporary tattoos. In a similar action, the FDA has issued an import alert for henna intended for use on the skin. Henna is approved only for use as a hair dye, not for direct application to the skin. Also, henna typically produces a reddish brown tint, raising questions about what ingredients are added to produce the varieties of colors labeled as "henna," such as "black henna" and "blue henna."


Medication or other treatment may be needed if you develop an allergic reaction, infection or other skin problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, the tattoo may need to be removed. Keep in mind that tattoo inks are classified as cosmetics, so they aren't regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  To make sure your tattoo will be applied safely, answer these questions:


--Who does the tattooing? Go to a reputable tattooing studio that employs only properly trained employees. Keep in mind that regulation requirements and licensing standards vary from state to state. Check with your city, county or state health department for information on local licensing and regulations.

--Does the tattoo artist wear gloves? Make sure the tattoo artist washes his or her hands and wears a fresh pair of protective gloves for each procedure.

--Does the tattoo artist use proper equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist removes a needle and tubes from sealed packages before your procedure begins. Any pigments, trays and containers should be unused as well.

--Does the tattoo artist sterilize nondisposable equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist uses a heat sterilization machine (autoclave) to sterilize all nondisposable equipment after each customer. Instruments and supplies that can't be sterilized with an autoclave — including drawer handles, tables and sinks — should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use.

Also ask yourself whether you truly want to invest in permanent body art. Choose the location of the tattoo carefully. Don't get a tattoo if you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs or worry that you might regret the tattoo later.  How you care for your new tattoo depends on the type and extent of work done, according to the Mayo Clinic. Typically, however, you'll need to:

--Remove the bandage after 24 hours. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the tattooed skin while it's healing.
--Keep the tattooed skin clean. Use plain soap and water and a gentle touch. Pat — don't rub — the area dry.
--Use moisturizer. Apply a mild moisturizer to the tattooed skin several times a day.
--Avoid sun exposure. Keep the tattooed area out of the sun for at least a few weeks.
--Choose clothing carefully. Don't wear anything that would stick to the tattoo.
--Allow up to 2 weeks for healing. Don't pick at any scabs, which increases the risk of infection and can damage the design and cause scarring.

If you think your tattoo may be infected or you're concerned that your tattoo isn't healing properly, contact your doctor. If you're interested in tattoo removal, ask your dermatologist about laser surgery or other options for tattoo removal. REMEMBER, a tattoo that you think may be cool could cause long term damage to your skin and complicate your health. Don't make the decision lightly, but consider all the options before you go under the needle.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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