A tattoo is a permanent mark or design made on the skin with pigments inserted through pricks into the skin’s top layer. Typically, the tattoo artist uses a hand-held machine that acts much like a sewing machine, with one or more needles piercing the skin repeatedly. With every puncture, the needles insert tiny ink droplets.
The process of tattooing which is usually done without anesthetics (drugs that cut of transmission of pain signals by nerves) causes a small amount of bleeding and slight to potentially significant pain.
Below are some complications which may occur immediately or later after getting a tattoo
- Allergic reactions to tattoo dyes especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
- Skin infections especially by bacteria are possible after tattooing. This manifests by swelling and pus formation
- Other skin problems like bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing also can lead to keloids, which are abnormally overgrown big scars
- Blood borne diseases may be transmitted for example HIV, Hepatitis B and C if the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood
- MRI complications although rarely occur due to tattoos. They can cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams, which is a form of imaging technique used to view internal body structures. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image.
However, after getting a tattoo, here’s how you can minimize the chances of the above complications arising:
- Remove the applied bandage after 24 hours. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the tattooed skin while it’s healing.
- Keep the tattooed skin clean. Use plain soap and water and a gentle touch. While showering, avoid direct streams of water on the newly tattooed skin. Pat (but do not rub) the area dry.
- Apply a mild moisturizer to the tattooed skin several times a day.
- Keep the tattooed area out of the sun for at least a few weeks.
- Stay out of swimming pools, hot tubs, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water while your piercing is healing.
- Choose clothing carefully. Don’t wear anything that might stick to the tattoo.
- Allow up to 2 weeks for healing. Don’t pick at any scabs (newly forming scar tissue), which increases the risk of infection and can damage the design and cause scarring.