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More on tattoos and chronic diseases


Long Beach, California at night

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I got my calendars mixed up, and thought that the Diabetes Expo and the Ink & Iron tattoo show were both in Long Beach last weekend. (Ink & Iron’s next month.) I thought it’d be an interesting combination of venues, and people could go from one to the other without too much trouble (Diabetes Expo at the Convention Center, Ink & Iron on the Queen Mary).

People who have chronic diseases can’t be as carefree and casual about getting tattoos as perhaps they’d like to be.  While it might not be a case of “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” for everyone, certainly the process of invading your skin with foreign substances can stress some people’s bodies more than others.  Diabetics don’t heal as fast.  People with autoimmune disorders might be pushed into a flare-up.  People with allergies, especially nickel allergies, might have inflamed skin for years.  People with latex allergies should definitely make sure the artist is using some other kind of gloves.

I have three tattoos, and I’m a Type 2 diabetic.  I also have nickel allergy.  I got my first tattoo before I got my diabetes diagnosis, but I went to the tattoo parlor fully informed the second and third time.  Interestingly enough, I was never asked about health conditions by any of the artists who inked me.  In retrospect, I think I should have been.  I don’t think it would have changed anything, but (again in retrospect) I think it’s only right that the artist should know that much about the person he/she is working on. If I get another tattoo (still under consideration) I’ll tell the artist up front if he or she doesn’t ask.

And, of course, people with chronic medical conditions should absolutely do some research before getting body art or piercings.  The more we know ahead of time, the better we can be prepared for possible problems afterwards.  If I’d known there was a connection between tattoo ink and nickel allergy, I might have changed the colors of my designs (although as it turned out, I had no problem with the blue or green colors, only with the red which does not contain nickel).  Knowing that diabetics heal more slowly would not have stopped me from getting any of my tattoos, but knowing that I had diabetes did inspire me to make sure my blood sugar levels were well under control before I got inked.

Have you had to take your health into consideration before getting inked?  Have you been asked about health problems by your artist?  How did you handle the issue?

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