| Walk With the Doc
Saturday December 9th, 7:00 am
Is a Tattoo Right for You?
As a doctor, it’s my duty to accept the choices
you make and help you live with those choices.
Should you have a new tattoo, I’m likely to express a
positive thought about your newest body art.
However, should you ask, I would likely offer advice
you might not expect. Perhaps a tattoo is right for
you and then again perhaps not. A lot depends on
‘the how’, ‘the when’, and what’s likely to happen in
No doubt you have noticed the tattoo fad?
Tattoos seem more common than ever among those
in their 20s and 30s. Like many fads, tattooing
comes with health consequences that aren’t
immediately obvious. The potential risk should not
be taken lightly. The fundamental problem is that
tattooing requires the placement of pigment
granules in the skin. For most, these particles are
tolerated – at least initially. Unfortunately, our
immune system changes as we age and years later
these particles may be viewed by our body as
foreign invaders. Beyond the uncertainty of a tattoo’
s long term potential for creating infections, tumors,
or auto immune issues is the need to find a
reputable service that practices necessary safety
precautions and aftercare.
If in later years, the body decides the tattoo
has to go, the tattoo ink may be transported to
lymph nodes. The evidence of this can appear as
discoloration of lymph nodes as they collect ink from
the tattoo they are attempting to remove. In some
cases the body’s decision to attack the tattoo may
not happen for decades. If the body does attacks
the tattoo, the result can lead to infections, tumors,
various autoimmune disease, lymphoma, etc.
A safety concern more recently discovered is
related to the size of particles used in the tattoo ink.
While many inks have been used for decades with
few problems the range of products in use has
grown with few long term studies to evaluate their
health effects. For example, a reformulation of a
long used ink into nano sized particles changes the
chemistry and the possible long term effects.
Without adequate studies, it’s anyone guess what
negative effects lay in store decades away.
Any procedure that breaches the skin and
introduces a foreign particle can create health
complications. For tattoos, the possibilities include:
• Allergic reactions.
• Skin infections
• Granulomas (bumps around tattoo ink)
• Keloids (raised areas caused by an overgrowth
of scar tissue)
• Bloodborne diseases (tetanus, hepatitis B,
hepatitis C, etc.)
• MRI complications (tattoo pigments can
interfere with the quality of images)
• Diminished ability to sweat and skin’s ability to
How pleased you will be with a tattoo in future
years is problematic. You will change, your views of
life will change, the people around you will change
(think employers), fashions will change. Aside from
the unpredictability effects of change, here are more
factors to consider before getting a tattoo.
• Weight gain or loss (including pregnancy) may
distort the tattoo.
• From surveys, we know that few still want their
tattoo a decade later
• Tattoos affect first impressions (friends,
• Tattoo removal can be expensive and painful.
The reputation of the tattoo artist is important
but hardly an assurance of long term positive
results. Comparing reviews of tattoo artists might tell
you about their artistic skills but likely have no
relevance to how your long-term health needs will
be met. Try finding a review by someone that had a
tattoo twenty years ago. Most likely you will not find
reviews from even three years ago. If you did find
recent reviews about tattoos obtained ten years
ago, they would most likely be about best ways to
remove the old tattoos.
If contemplating a tattoo, think carefully before
committing. If unsure, give plenty of thought to the
long term consequences. Far too many get their
tattoo as a result of group pressure. With young
adults, the first tattoo often happens in an outing
with friends in a risk taking mood. Hopefully,
knowing the potential negative consequences can
be an advantage when social pressure builds.
Should you decide to have a tattoo despite the
unknown future consequences then carefully
evaluate the tattoo artist’s practices. Here are a few
questions to ask.
• Is the business listed with the Better Business
Bureau or the Chamber of Commerce?
• Has the tattoo artist met all local and state
• Does the tattoo artist wash his hands and wear
a fresh pair of protective gloves?
• Prior to procedure, are needles, pigments and
tubes in factory fresh sealed packages?
• Is non disposable equipment sterilized in an
• Are instruments and supplies that can't be
sterilized with an autoclave chemically disinfected?
• What aftercare is provided to avoid infections
and deal with unwanted outcomes?
The adage, stop and think before you ink, is
wisdom. Learn more at Complications of Tattoos
and Tattoo Removal - Stop and Think Before you ink
Nancy Neighbors, MD
• The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does
not approve or regulate the ink used in tattoos.
• More women than men in the US have tattoos.
• The most popular tattoo images are angels and
• Tattoos are etched in the second layer of the
• Women are more likely to get their tattoos
removed. 40% of U.S. adults ages 26–40 have at
least one tattoo.
• Due to an outbreak of hepatitis B, it was illegal
to get a tattoo in New York from 1961 to 1997.
•The word tattoo is derived from “tattau”, a
Tahitian word which means “to mark.”
Let’s take a walk
Date: Saturday, December 9th
Location: Jones Family Park (see map)
Time: 7:00 am (Meet in front of Yogurt Mt.)
Yogurt Mt. is the last store at the end of Valley Bend
Shopping Center). If cloudy, bring an umbrella, we walk
come rain or shine.
Click here for Dr. Neighbors’ 2017 news page
If you would prefer to discontinue receiving ideas
about healthy living from Dr. Neighbors please
phone (256) 882-6085.