Tattoos and the Immune System A tattoo is a permanent marking that is created by making a series of minute puncture wounds that go about a quarter inch into the person’s skin using a single needle or group of needles. Tattoos should be done by a tattoo artist who is licensed. In addition, individuals seeking tattoos are usually advised to first get a hepatitis B vaccination as a safeguard against the dangerous virus. This shows some degree of risk that is associated with the procedure even in the most stringent of settings (Carney, 2006).
There is a lot of disagreement on whether or not tattoos have the potential to negatively impact the immune system of the individual who gets them done on their skin. I know most of you might argue that the modern procedures developed ensure that tattoos are done in a sterile environment while using single-use items and sterilizing the rest of the equipment has to a large extent minimized the possibility of the individual compromising their immune system.
Many jurisdictions also require the tattooists to undergo blood-borne pathogen training similar to the ones provided by OSHA and the Red Cross. However, like every other invasive procedure, there is always the potential for harm such as skin disorders or infections, contracting blood-borne diseases as well as potential allergic reactions (Sawyer, 2007). Blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus, tuberculosis and HIV can all be transmitted through direct contact with infected blood.
Although tattoo artists must adhere to regulations regarding the rule of single-use needles so as to guard against transmission of such diseases, there is still some risk that can be associated with coming into contact with the tattoo equipment that has been used on hundreds of individuals, if not thousands. This is further emphasized on by a study conducted by the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas in 2001 which suggested a correlation between the tattoos popularity rise and the increased rate of hepatitis C infections.
The study indicated that 22% of those who had tattoos were infected with the virus while only 3. 5 % of those without were infected. This has led to the wide belief that tattooed people are nine times more likely to be infected with the virus than those without tattoos (Sawyer, 2007). The greatest threat to the immunity from tattoos is the fact that they may contain various toxins that have the potential to present problems to the individual’s immune cell as well as to their skin. This is because it requires the breaking of the skin barrier which exposes the individual to health risks such as allergic reactions and infections.
Traditionally, tattoos were applied by using natural dyes such as woad which was a favorite among the Celts. However, modern tattoos including the carriers that used in the process such as the solvents for the dyes may contain a variety of toxins. According to CDC (centre for Disease Control and Prevention), serious skin infections that are now tattoo-associated are on the rise. Reuters in 2006 reported that the six outbreaks of the superbug, scientific name, Staphylococcus aureus, were traced to unlicensed tattoo artists in Vermont, Ohio and Kentucky.
The infection causes abscesses of inflammation on areas of the skin and may also lead to serious problems such as blood infections and pneumonia as well as necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) in some cases. Out of the forty affected victims, thirty-four of them had been tattooed by unlicensed artists (Sawyer, 2007). Other risks stemming from tattoos include skin disorders. There have been reported cases of tiny bumps developing around the tattoo design known as granulomas especially if red ink was included in the tattoo. The red ink has been particularly identified for many of the allergic reaction tattooed people have.
Tattooed youth have indicated healing problems after getting tattoos outsides professional salons and on tattoos that included red ink. Additionally, using Indian ink for tattoo is fatal as it contains poisons as well as it lingers in the body which can result in birth defects in children born to females many years after they got tattooed (Rothfield & Romaine, 2005). Conclusion Tattoos are aesthetically appealing and are becoming increasingly popular especially as a cultural expression. However, they do pose a variety of risks to an individual’s immune system and as such, great thought and care should be taken if one is to get a tattoo.
This should include scouting for professional salons with licensed tattoo artists as well as research possible side effects and what to look for to ensure a reaction to the tattoo does not progress to untreatable levels. References Carney, J. N. (2006). Public health in action: practicing in the real world. New Jersey: Jones & Bartlett Learning. Rotfield, G. S. & Romaine, D. S. (2005). The encyclopedia of men’s health. New York: InfoBase Publishing. Sawyer, S. (2007). Body piercing and tattooing: the hidden dangers of body art. The Rosen publishing group.