Understanding Blood-Borne Illnesses and Tattoos

Friday 10th of April 2009 12:29:48 PM [Add To This Article]

The process of tattooing is fairly simple: a needle or set of needles is used to force ink under the skin when the needles puncture the skin. The ink that remains under the skin after the perforations heal creates the tattoo design, which is now a permanent part of your body. Sound painful? For some people it is. For most, though, the tattooing process is mildly irritating once they become accustomed, kind of like someone rubbing or pinching your skin hard, but not really causing major pain. However, the fact that getting a tattoo is not usually an incredibly painful experience should not cause you to forget that tattooing is an invasive procedure. When all sterilization rules and sanitary practices are followed, then that procedure is just as safe – possibly safer – than if you had it done in an operating room in a hospital. On the other hand, if you neglect to tattoo safely – for example, sharing needles, using unapproved tattoo inks or tattooing at home where you cannot possibly hope to maintain the level of sterilization necessary to keep yourself free from infection and blood-borne contaminants and illnesses, then you open yourself up to a vast array of potential health complications with ramifications as serious as death in some cases.

It is important to understand that if you get tattooed in a tattoo studio that observes all health regulations, then your odds of getting an infection of any type are virtually non-existent. It is perilous, irresponsible practices like home tattooing and sharing tattoo needles that have not been properly sterilized that puts you at risk. Here are a few of the potential problems you can encounter as a result of cross-contamination—when your blood and someone else’s mix together in your body:

•    Hepatitis: This disease attacks your liver. There are many forms of the illness, some of which can be controlled by medicine so you can continue to live a relatively normal life, and others which are so virulent that you must live in near- or total isolation. Hepatitis ultimately will kill you by destroying your liver if it is allowed to progress unchecked. Not all types can be cured.

•    HIV/AIDS: This disease is probably most commonly known as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but you can also get it whenever a person infected with the HIV/AIDS virus somehow allows their blood, semen or other bodily fluids to comingle with yours. If you share a tattoo needle with someone who has HIV/AIDS or even use tattoo ink after them, then you run a serious risk of being infected with this currently incurable and ultimately fatal disease that disables the immune system.

•    Tetanus: Tetanus, also called lock-jaw, is usually caused by wounds that have been inflicted by rusty objects. It can be passed during an unsafe tattooing process if the needles or the tattoo tubes have not been properly disinfected. You can be immunized for this, and you can get treated for tetanus once you develop symptoms, but the spasms and muscular damage can be severe if it is not treated immediately, and it can take over a week to incubate.

•    Syphilis: Generally, syphilis is passed through sexual fluids, but on rare occasions it can be transmitted through blood cross-contamination. It can be treated with penicillin, but can do serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes and bones.

All of these diseases sound frightening, and you should be concerned by the potential infection that irresponsible tattooing can lead to. However, it is important to remember that you only run the risk of contracting these types of infections if you tattoo irresponsibly, for example by sharing needles, using homemade tattoo guns, sharing ink, tattooing with inappropriate objects such as ballpoint pens or sewing needles, or letting anyone tattoo you with any tattoo equipment – professional or otherwise – that has not been fully sterilized in a regulation autoclave.

Tattoo studios rely on their reputations and their sterilization techniques to keep them in business, so getting your tattoo at a professional studio where all sterilization and sanitation standards are followed is the best way to keep yourself healthy and enjoy your tattoo without any worries.

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