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Want a tattoo? These are the health risks

Health & Science
 Tattoos pose health risks. [iStockphoto]

This ancient practice, dating back to the New Stone Age, holds diverse cultural significance worldwide, symbolising status, rites of passage or declarations of love.

Yet, beyond the cultural allure, tattoos pose health risks worth considering.

The American Academy of Dermatology distinguishes between professional tattoos and cosmetic tattoos, also known as “permanent makeup.” Both categories share potential health hazards.

1. Cancer link: Tattoo inks may contain carcinogenic additives like Polyethylene glycol and 2-phenoxyethanol, linked to skin irritation, gastrointestinal issues, and even nerve damage.

2. Infections: When you get a tattoo, unsterilised equipment or contaminated ink can lead to serious infections like pyoderma and bacterial infections. Experts say even HIV, fungal infections, some forms of hepatitis, herpes simplex virus, staph, tetanus and tuberculosis if proper hygiene isn’t maintained.

3. Dermal conditions: Common reactions to tattoo pigments include granulomas and various skin diseases like eczema. Keloids, especially, are a concern for those prone to scarring. Other conditions noted have been cement dermatitis, collagen deposits, discoid lupus erythematosus, eczematous eruptions, hyperkeratosis and parakeratosis

4. Allergic reactions: Allergies to metals like mercury and lead, or the pigments themselves, can cause severe reactions. Nickel, often present in ink, is a common trigger for metal allergies.

5. MRI complications: Tattoos containing iron ferrous oxide may cause discomfort or burning sensations during Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans.

6. Fluid accumulation: After getting inked, fluid buildup known as seroma can occur under the skin, which may require medical attention for drainage.

7. Delayed reactions: Some individuals may experience delayed reactions to tattoos, such as eczematous dermatitis, even years after getting inked.

8. Other conditions: Carcinomas, tumours, keratoacanthoma and vasculitis are among the documented conditions associated with tattoo pigments. According to the World Health Organization, the risks could include various types of lymphoma, as well as cancers of the kidney, bladder, and liver.

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