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Posted on 04/09/2017 in Treatments

Getting Tattooed or Pierced

Health risks of body modification

Before making the decision to modify your body, it’s important to understand the adverse side effects associated with these procedures.

Health risks of tattoos

When you receive a tattoo, a tattoo artist uses a handheld machine with an attached needle to puncture the skin. Every time this device makes a hole, it injects ink into the dermis — the second layer of skin below the epidermis.

Tattoos are a common form of self-expression, but they also damage the skin and can cause complications. Complications could include:

  • allergic reaction to tattoo dyes, which may develop years later; signs of an allergic reaction include a rash at the tattoo site
  • skin infection, such as a staph infection or tuberculosis
  • development of nodules of inflamed tissue called granulomas around the tattoo site
  • formation of keloids, which are overgrowths of scar tissue
  • blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and tetanus; these can be contracted by using contaminated tattoo needles that haven’t been sanitized
  • interference with future magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests
  • burning or swelling at the tattoo site

The long-term effects of tattoo ink and colorings remain unknown. Until recently, no government regulatory agency has closely examined the safety of tattoo ink.

More than 50 colorings used in tattoos have been approved for use in cosmetics, but the risk of injecting them beneath the skin is unclear. Such pigments are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So far, the FDA has only looked at whether these pigments were safe for external use, not for injection under the skin. No coloring has been officially approved for injection under the skin.

Health risks of body piercings

Modifying your body with piercings also carries a measure of risk, such as the risk for a bacterial infection. Some people develop an abscess after getting a piercing. This pus-filled mass can develop around the piercing. This is a serious side effect. If left untreated, there’s the risk for sepsis or blood poisoning.

Sepsis is a life-threatening response to an infection that can result in organ failure and death. Symptoms of blood poisoning include a high fever, chills, a fast heartbeat, and rapid breathing. Infections are more common with mouth and nose piercings because these areas contain more bacteria.

Other risks associated with body piercings include:

  • swelling around the piercing site
  • formation of a keloid around the piercing
  • bleeding caused by a damaged blood vessel

There are also location-specific risks with body piercings. A tongue piercing can cause damage to your teeth and cause you to have difficulty speaking. Additionally, if your tongue swells after getting the piercing, swelling can block your airway making it harder to breathe.

A genital piercing can cause painful sex and urination. The risk of complications is higher if you have other medical conditions like:

  • diabetes
  • allergies, especially if you’ve ever had a reaction that caused breaking out in red bumps, swelling of the throat, or difficulty breathing
  • skin disorders, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • a weak immune system

Talk to a doctor before getting a piercing if you suffer from any these conditions.

Tattoos can be removed, but not always completely or with satisfying cosmetic results. The process is expensive and requires repeated visits to a doctor. Scarring is also likely. The FDA recommends laser surgery performed by a dermatologist as a safe tattoo removal technique. Consult your doctor if you’re thinking about having a tattoo removed.
Reversal of piercing is usually as simple as removing the jewelry and allowing the hole in the skin to heal. Punctured cartilage, stretched skin, and other body modifications may require surgical correction.

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