In today’s day and age, it’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t have a tattoo. In the past tattoos were seen as taboo, making it difficult for people to get a decent job. That mindset has radically shifted in recent years, and now it’s not only rebellious youngsters that are jumping on the tattoo bandwagon. Tattoos are now seen as a form of self-expression and identification; however researchers are beginning to believe that the longer that self-expression stays on your skin, the more damage that it does to your body.
The Pew Research Center states that four-in-ten millennials have tattoos, with half of that number having more than one. With the rise in tattoo popularity, it raises the question: do we know enough about the long-term effects of injecting ink into the body?
Old Tattoos Can Cause Problems Mistaken for Cancer
In Australia, a 30-year old woman (whose name has not been released) went to doctor with small lumps under her arms that had been there for two weeks. A body scan showed that there were similar enlarged lymph nodes in her chest.
“Ninety-nine times out of 100, (this) will be lymphoma,” said her doctor, Dr. Christian Bryant, a hematologist at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
An otherwise healthy woman, she was experiencing no other symptoms of lymphoma. She did, however, have a large, 15-year old black ink tattoo covering her back, and a more recent tattoo on her left shoulder.
In this woman’s case, her inflamed lymph nodes were not caused by cancer, but from a reaction to the old ink in her body. Once her immune cells found the tattoo pigment – a foreign substance – they ingested it and travelled from the skin to the lymph nodes over a period of years.
“The pigment is too large for these cells to eat and digest,” Stebbins said. “That’s why they’re still there many years later.”
Why the woman had a reaction 15 years later is a mystery to the doctors. But, while this woman’s ordeal seems to be a rare occurrence, it’s still important to understand the risks involved with the tattoo industry.
What Is Inside Tattoo Ink?
Injecting ink into the body is not the most natural of processes. Many people will agree to a tattoo without understanding what it is that they are putting into their body, and that what they’re putting in can be hazardous.
In the production of tattoo ink, more than 100 colorants and 100 additives are used . These products have been found to contain hazardous chemicals, and many do not comply with international health and safety standards.
Even more shocking, the Food and Drug Administration has found that “Many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.”
Side-Effects of Tattoo Ink
With these kinds of ingredients, it’s not surprising that many people display symptoms after getting a tattoo. However, most people report nothing more than mild irritation in the form of a rash, redness or bumps around the area of the tattoo shortly after getting inked.
Some people may experience an infection, which may cause high fever, shaking, chills, and sweats. Treatment of these infections may require antibiotics, or even hospitalization and/or surgery. An allergic reaction may appear in the form of a rash, and because the ink is permanent the reaction may persist.
Scar tissue may form when you get a tattoo. Small bumps may form around the material that the body sees as foreign, which could make your tattoo less pretty than you perhaps intended.
While most people report minimal symptoms, there are also people who experience more severe reactions. Bacterial infections and acute allergic reactions may occur, as well as a skin pigmentation disorder. The risk of cancer from tattoo procedures has been neither proven nor excluded.
Despite the risks, many people are adamant on expressing themselves through the art that they tattoo on their body. If this is the route you’re taking, be sure to protect yourself to minimize risk and to keep yourself safe.
Protect Yourself from Tattoo Mistakes
If you’re planning on getting a tattoo, there are a few things to consider in order to make the process safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
Go to a reputable tattoo artist
Choosing a tattoo artist is perhaps the most important part of the tattoo process. You want to choose someone who has a good reputation. Check the artist’s client references to make sure that past clients were satisfied with the service. If possible, try to meet the artist and visit the parlor beforehand.
Choose a good-quality parlor
The second most important part of getting a tattoo is to make sure that the parlor is up to your standard. Make sure that both the artist and the parlor comply with state and local laws. Visit the parlor before booking your appointment to make sure that it is clean, and that they are using disposable needles and unopened ink to prevent infection.
Education is key
Knowing what you are putting in your body is always important. Learn about the side-effects that you may experience, and what you need to do should you experience any of them, and you will better be able to take care of yourself in the event of an emergency.
Organizations like European Society of Tattoo and Pigment Research have spent a great deal of time learning about the art of tattooing in order to offer knowledge and guidance to the public. Take advantage of these resources to learn as much as you can before investing in a tattoo.
When it comes to self-expression, tattoos are becoming an increasingly important part of our modern day society. Before you or your loved ones jump on the tattoo-train, make sure that you know as much as possible, so that you can make an educated decision. If you already have a few old tattoos, be aware that problems can arise years down the road. Knowledge is the most important aspect when choosing to do anything that’s permanent. Learn as much as you can about your body so that you can keep yourself safe and happy.