3 Long-Term Health Risks From Tattoos

Tattoos have become very common these days. In fact, 21% of adults had one or more tattoos in 2012. This is a 7% increase from 2008 when 14% of adults were inked.1 And these numbers will keep on rising. But are tattoos actually safe?

When done properly, tattoos won’t cause complications. Proper healing and care should be taken care of. However, there will always be a chance for long-term risks. These issues won’t show up instantly, so it’s essential to know they exist.

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The outcome is serious! After all, these risks can last a lifetime. Sometimes, they can cause persistent problems that just won’t go away. So before you get a tattoo, do your research.

3 Long-Term Health Risks

Learn about what a tattoo can cause, including these three long-term risks.

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1. Scarring

3 Long-Term Health Risks From Tattoos

Technically, a tattoo is a wound. So when healing takes place, extra scar tissue can form. This is called a keloid and happens when the skin heals beyond the wound. The result is a raised, thick scar that feels lumpy.

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If a tattoo forms a keloid, the actual design might be bumpy. Sometimes, only parts of the tattoo develop a keloid. In more extreme cases, keloids can extend beyond the design with a dark red or flesh-colored hue.

Some people are prone to keloids. Anything can cause them, from tattoos and acne to papercuts and surgery. It’s most commonly seen in African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. It also tends to run in the family.

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While keloids aren’t bothersome, they can become itchy. Sun exposure and friction may set it off.2

2. Allergic Reactions

3 Long-Term Health Risks From Tattoos

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It’s possible to have an allergy to certain inks. This can cause an allergic reaction marked by swelling, redness, and inflammation. And while allergic reactions seem like an instant problem, this is not always the case. They can actually happen even years after getting a tattoo.

A delayed allergic response to tattoo ink is known as a pseudolymphomatous allergic reaction. It’s also very rare, but it is totally possible. This condition is often misdiagnosed as lymphoma, so it is important to know this risk exists.3

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While antihistamines are used to treat allergic reactions, the trigger – a tattoo – can’t exactly be removed. This can be difficult to treat, and the reaction may persist over a long period of time.

3. Bloodborne Diseases

3 Long-Term Health Risks From Tattoos

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Infected needles and ink are bad news. It can transmit bloodborne diseases like HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and tetanus.4 What’s worse is that you can’t tell if you have contracted them. Symptoms won’t just crop up overnight. Instead, you will need to get a blood test. But it can be months – or years – before you ever see any signs.

Thanks to the Food and Drug Administration, there are strict guidelines for tattooing. These are meant to eliminate the risk of spreading bloodborne diseases. So it’s crucial that you look for a studio that is impeccably clean and safe. There should also be sterilization equipment.

Make sure your artist uses a brand new needle. The ink should be from a single-use disposable cup. This ensures that needles and ink aren’t being re-used.5

Aside from these long-term risks, other problems might also occur quickly. Skin infections and blood poisoning are two common examples. However, these are treatable if caught early.

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