for tattooed people, and those who want to be

More thoughts on tattoos and diabetes


I’ve written a couple times before about my own health issues. I’m a Type 2 diabetic, diagnosed ten years ago but probably had it a year or so before that. I’ve gotten all three of my tattoos since being diagnosed, and had no particular problems.

The last tattoo was slow to heal, but I believe that was more due to a reaction to the red ink. Not my bracelet, but similar to mine Diabetics don’t heal as quickly as other people, and the slow healing can be even slower if the person’s blood sugar isn’t under good control. It’s not a complete barrier to getting inked, but it’s something to take into consideration. Slower healing means more chance of infection, scarring, and generalized messing-things-up.

This week I started on insulin at bedtime because my blood sugar was NOT under good control. Something went haywire somewhere over the last six months and I was getting higher and higher readings and having little success getting back to business-as-usual with my former combination of diet, exercise, and oral medication. Many Type 2’s think of going on insulin as somehow having failed. I don’t see it that way. It’s a lot easier to adjust the dosage of insulin than it is to try to monkey around with oral meds. I mean, how many times can you break a pill before you’ve got nothing but dust?

As I watched my readings get higher and higher I knew that it would be a very bad idea for me to get any more tattoos. High readings mean slow healing, and since I’m leaning very strongly toward having a more-visible tattoo next time (if there is a next time) I definitely do not want to have something that will swell, itch, weep, crust, and look like space-alien skin for months. So I have even more incentive to get the insulin dose right and keep things in equilibrium.

Doing a Google search on “tattoo diabetic” brings up a lot of interesting articles including several on the concept of having your Medic Alert information tattooed on your skin so you won’t have to wear a tag. Of course, if your medical condition makes tattoos a bad idea in the first place…. um, all in all, I’d rather just keep wearing my removable tag.

Do you have health issues that make you wary of getting more ink?

Creative Commons License photo credit: mcbill

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.


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  6. You’ll find approximately 23.6 million men and women who are diabetic within the USA; this is the figure obtained by the American Diabetes Association. Individuals who suffer from this dilemma could go into shock if they don’t contemplate it to be a serious problem and aren’t careful about their food.

  7. Stefan, how long a tattoo takes to heal can vary. Think of it as pretty much the equivalent of a skinned knee and compare it to how long it has taken you to heal that kind of injury in the past.

    Make sure you follow your artist’s instructions exactly and be extra careful to keep the tattoo clean and put lotion on it as instructed. Your chance of infection is greater and the healing will be slower than a non-diabetic’s.

  8. im diabetic and am getting a tattoo on tuesday on my lower arm, how long can it take to heal and wat other problems can occur?

  9. Christy, I have not heard of anything really bad happening to any diabetic who got tattooed, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. If someone did lose a foot, there was a lot more going on than getting a tattoo, I am sure. People can lose feeling in their feet due to diabetic neuropathy and not even feel that there are serious problems. (I have a friend who did lose a foot that way, but it was because he got an ulcer on the bottom and wasn’t even aware of it till it was too late.) If your sugar levels are under good control and you don’t have problems you will probably be OK. But be sure to take good care of the skin because we diabetics heal slower.

  10. i am a type 2 diabetic and im on meds twice a day. i haven’t had to get on insulin and so far, am doing pretty good. i got all my tattoos before i found out about my diabeties, but i REALLY want to get at least 3 more. I read somewhere that a woman actually lost her foot because she was a diabetic and got a tat. that got me worried and put a pause on me getting one. i wanted to know if you had heard of any “serious” complications with type 2 diabetics and tattoos. im trying to lose my fear of going back to get one and reading your story helped me…thanks!

  11. I don’t know why a doctor would tell a diabetic to get a tattoo removed. It seems to me (and I hasten to add that I’m not a doctor but I am a tattooed diabetic) that getting an existing tattoo removed would cause way more problems, because diabetics heal more slowly.

  12. I know when my dad went to the doctor and was diagnosed with diabetes. The doctor told him he needed to get his tattoo removed. Can someone tell me if this is true.

  13. the standard for diabetes is Metformin but i also try to use alternative medicine in controlling diabetes. Alpha Lipoic Acid and Charantia seems to work well too against diabetes.

  14. Anyone with chronic health problems should be well informed and should talk with the artist before going ahead with a tattoo. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be inked. 🙂

  15. I think if I had diabetes I would be scare to get a tattoo. Not like I don’t have already, but I would scare me. More power to you I think you are very brave, just be carefull.

  16. Keep in mind that the people who built temples in ancient days painted them all kinds of bright colors. Just because the paint’s worn off doesn’t mean the building isn’t still beautiful.

  17. im a diabetic myself and i have 2 sleeves and am pretty much covered threw out my body i think this is funny its even a topic. If u want a tattoo then do it dont let being diabetic stop you, if u are diabetic i just wouldnt tattoo your feet cause mine took at least a week for the swelling to go down and it just wasnt a good idea.

  18. I have a friend who is a Type 2 Diabetic, and on insulin shots. She has at last count 13 tattoos. As far as I know she hasn’t had any kind of complications.

    My husband has psoriasis all over his body, and he just recently got his first tattoo. It took longer for his to heal than mine that was done on the same day, but it looks good now.

    I figure reading online, and talking to your tattoo artist, and talking to your dr. is the best option before getting tattoos if you have any kind of health concerns.

    • That’s very good news indeed. I think once everything settles down with me it’ll be time to start thinking seriously about new ink. 🙂

      I’m glad your husband’s tattoo healed. It would never have occured to me that it would be OK to get a tattoo if you have psoriasis–I’m glad to hear that it’s not a barrier!

      • Alot of it depends on how bad the psoriasis is. When I was getting my 3rd tattoo his psorisas was so bad the guy said he couldn’t do it. A year later his skin had cleared up to a point that hey could finally get one.

        It really all depends on the artist. Some won’t do it at all… liability and all. Alot of people don’t realize that not only is psoriasis a skin condition it’s also directly tied into the immune system, so depend on how you heal when you get cut can make the difference on weather or not the psoriasis will even heal properly.

        • I didn’t know psoriasis was tied into the immune system. Learn something new every day!

          I think an artist probably wouldn’t want to work on someone with a bad skin condition just because of the possibility of injury to the person or contamination of the surroundings. But each artist has his/her own policies. I have read about artists who won’t work on anyone with a chronic medical condition and I can see their point, even though I would be disappointed to be turned away by an artist with that policy.

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