Diabetes and Tattoo | Can a diabetic get a tattoo?

The popularity of tattoos have been growing throughout the world. People of all age group, diaspora are contemplating the option to have a tattoo on the body and why not!! tattoos are one form of a expression of person’s personality. People of different passion showcase their personality through tattoo art.

But the problem lies for person who is suffering from some kind of medical condition. This article is specifically about diabetes and tattoos. We will try to figure out if diabetic patient can tattoo their body with favorite design.

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There is very little information about the subject which results in lot of confusion among diabetic patient. People suffering from diabetes are in dilemma whether tattoo can cause any harm in their body functioning.

Let me tell you one thing for sure, there is no problem for a diabetic to get a tattoo but he has to take certain precaution before going through this process.

a. you should have good control over blood sugar
b. you are not suffering from any diabetic complications

According to University of Southern California, it is imperative for any diabetic to keep the HbA1C level below 8%. A person with bad sugar control are in the risk of getting harmful infection which can be deadly for body organs.

Let me explain you with a example;
Patient with poor blood sugar control find it difficult to heal a wound and run the risk of getting infection from external environment. Peripheral body parts such as toes are the ones which get affected most and turn into gangrene, resulting into amputation of the organs.

Similarly, a tattoo basically creates a large open wound which gets healed slowly by diabetic patient, without proper care the wound may get infected and affect the body organs.

So make sure you are in good control of the blood sugar level and if you are not, please avoid being creative for sometime.

Body Areas to avoid Tattooing
You have to be very careful while selecting the body areas as it is the choice of lifetime.
Before taking the final plunge you have to be dead sure about the design and the area for tattoo.

A diabetic should avoid following areas
a. Insulin injection site like abdomen, arms etc
b. Feet and Ankles (as they are more likely to get infected)
c. Buttocks
d. Shins

Keep in mind that even if you have good blood sugar control, diabetes over the time impact the blood circulation of the body. It has been found that as soon as blood sugar goes above 130 mg/dl, the damage to nerves start taking place. It’s a possibility that you may have no idea about the kind of damage your body system is having.
The above mentioned areas are the most likely to be affected by the disease. Hence it would be a smart decision to avoid these body parts for tattooing.
Also, people who use insulin pens or glucose monitor should avoid the injection site as these site may be unavailable after tattooing. So be very smart with your choice and do not fuck up as the permanent tattoo will stay throughout your life.

tattoo for diabetic patient


Risk for diabetic patients

As i have already stated, people suffering from diabetes have some amount of risk as far as having tattoo is concerned. Following are some of the problems which you can face:

1. Wound Infection
A newly formed tattoo is basically a large wound which can get infected from outside pathogens. People suffering from diabetes takes longer time to heal the wound which means the chance of infection increase.
The situation may get out of control if poorly managed diabetic get tattoo in wrong location and suffer gangrene like condition.

Understand that the size of tattoo doesn’t matter, even a small size wound can prove deadly for your life. It is very important to understand the signs of infection and contact the healthcare team in case of any doubt. Some of the symptoms includes
->Red/White rashes
-> Itching (which is not going away)
->Swelling even after 5 days
->Fever and Fatigue
->Swollen lymph nodes


2. Allergic Reaction

This is the most common symptom you may face if you are looking for tattooing. There are chances that your skin get allergic to the ink and develops rashes.
The problem can be with you long term so any person who is already have skin related issues, its better to avoid this endeavor.

3. Diseases
It is very important to select authentic tattoo parlor otherwise it can prove very deadly for you.
Dirty, sterilized tools can infect you with deadly viruses like HIV, Hepatitis etc. Bacterial skin infection can also takes place if the ink is not properly kept.

It is very important to select right professional for tattoo job.
I have observed people take this work casually and do not think twice before selecting the tattoo artist. With the rising craze of tattooing, the number of art shops have also increased. It is very important to do proper research before selecting any tattoo artist.

4. Sun Allergy
Cases of sun allergy have been observed on the inked skin. Every time the sun hits the tattoo, the allergy gets profound and you develop itchy skin over the patch.
Applying sunscreen (SPF 30) may help with the problem but its better to visit dermatology for any skin related problem.

5. Regret
With the rise in tattoo culture, young people are getting attracted towards this new fashion style.
The problem is that they are too young to take such a long term decision which result in regret after some years. This happen due to many reasons, one of which is loosing interest of the design.
While getting tattooed you may select a design which is in fashion, but with years the fashion fades and you may want to get rid of it.

Also with time, human body changes it shape and color which may render otherwise beautiful design worthless and ugly.

Please do not underestimate this point, the tattoo removal industry is on rise. According to IBIS Word, the tattoo removal industry in US has hit more than $85 million dollars in 2018 alone.
Also the procedure is expensive and full of health risk. While getting a tattoo may cost 100$ but its removal is 4 times more expensive than getting it.

If you are young below 20 years of age, my suggestion is to consult your parents and the person who already have the tattoo. Try to know their experience and give it a thought before rushing towards any tattoo parlor.

6. Social Stigma
Believe it or not but there is still social stigma attached towards the person with tattoo.

If you willing to apply for white collar job my suggestion is to drop the idea of having a tattoo or look for body parts which can be hidden from your cloths.
Usually corporate are looking for person which is disciplined and presentable, and for some reason people with tattoos are considered as free spirit and not suitable for the regular disciplined job.

Mikal Smith in her article “Where Can You Work and Show Your Tattoos?” did a great job in listing the job which you can easily do with a tattoo. In the article, she also mentioned that despite the discrimination law in United States, the people with tattoo may not considered  for the job despite of all the required skill and education qualification.

In my opinion, its better to avoid getting tattooed if you are targeting the jobs mentioned in the article. Nothing hurts more than working hard to achieve something and then getting rejected for naive reason.

This is the state of most advanced countries like US and Canada, for people living in India, tattoo is complete no if you want to have any decent job. I have worked in multinational corporation for years and let me tell you that you will be judge with your appearance.

7. MRI Problem
Sometime your tattoo patch may have burning sensation while MRI Test. The sensation will not have any long term complication and will not affect the quality of life.
This is a rare occurrence but important enough to mention in the article

Source of Infection
As a diabetic you are in high risk of getting tattoo related infection, so it is very important to take extra care and protect yourself from it.
But what are the cause of infection? Is it possible to prevent it?

Some of the sources of infection are:
a. Unhygienic tools
b. Infected ink
c. Contaminated water used in diluting ink
d. Not taking care of wound

As stated by Vikas Malani in Business Insider “As many as 90% of the errors happen by the tattoo artists. the rest 10% where clients are responsible, is only when they don’t follow after care”
The rise in tattoo business has led to the growth of tattoo parlor which are not good in their practice and this also led to the rise in infection cases.

In India, where i live, there is a beautiful tourist place called Goa which attract lot of audience from all over the world. When i visited the town i was surprised by the sheer number of tattoo parlors next to the street and how the artist lure the public to avail their service.

In India, tattoo industry is highly unregulated and there is a huge danger to get tattoo from these inauthentic parlor and if you are diabetic, i will request you to completely abandon the idea.

Another important reason for rising cases of infection is the infected ink.
In United States, tattoo ink comes under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as it is considered as cosmetic commodity. The problem with the law is that it has not been strictly enforced in tattoo industry and this led to the widespread use of low quality ink for better profit margin.

In 2012, there was massive bacterial infection out break in New York among the people who recently got the tattoo. When investigated by authorities, it was found that it was the contaminated ink which was responsible for the problem. The Point is that the authority will only come in force when the damage has already taken place.

The problem with ink contamination is that it can get infected at any point on its value chain right from the ink manufacturing to its delivery. There is no way one can find out if the ink is infected or not. The best you can do is to choose the tattoo parlor which has great service record and satisfying customers.

Check for tattoo parlor authenticity
Being a diabetic you have to be twice as careful before getting any tattoo. One of the important steps is to check the authenticity of the tattoo parlor and check on its customers.

Kidshealth.org recommends asking following question from the tattoo artist before going on with the procedure

a. Does the studio use single used needles and sterilized equipment?
b. Is the artist is a licensed practitioner?
c. Do they dispose ink cartridge after the procedure?
d. Are they aware of all the health risk?

Apart from these questions, one can also talk to their customers and observe how satisfied they are with the services. These precautionary steps can be very helpful for a diabetic patient to reduce the risk of any potential health problems in future.

When the child is young it is the parents who are careful and stressed about their child health. I had a privilege to have an interaction with a mother whose diabetic child has made a decision to get a tattoo. Here’s how she expresses her concern

“my son is 17 and is obsessed with getting a tattoo on his wrist for type 1 diabetes. We have consulted with his doctors and his doctors said if he can achieve a H1bAc of 7.5 and stay in target for 60% of the time it should be okay. Obviously if his blood control is out of control there is a risk of infection.
He also has unexplained urticaria so I am concerned that this could trigger the urticaria again, however he is absolutely adamant to get the tattoo so we are going to do it in January. I also went to visit the tattoo parlor where we will be going (Bondi Ink) to ask them about their hygiene practices with needles etc. I am still not keen for him to get it but like I say he is adamant”

In case of problem
If you face any kind of issue it is very important to consult your doctor.
Diabetes are prone to complex medical complication so time is important factor here. Seek immediate medical help before things go out of hand.Contact your tattoo artist to get the ink sample so that the source of health problem can be identified easily.
Also inform MedWatch, FDA’s problem-reporting program, on the Web or at 1-800-332-1088; or by contacting the nearest FDA consumer complaint coordinator for proper analysis.This way you can get early identification of your problem and you can also help other people who are looking to have new tattoo from that same parlor

Final Word

Diabetic patient can get a tattoo but they have to do a lot of research to protect themselves from the potential health risk. If you are young, i will advice to be patient and try to contact other diabetics who have undergone tattoo procedure. Ask them about their problems, their apprehensions and their regret, this way you will be get wise and will take smart decisions in future.

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