Thursday, 27 February 2014

Skin Infections

Psychology of getting a Tattoo

According to the Harris Poll of 2012, one in five (21%) of American adults have a tattoo.

Based on the poll, the following statistics were gathered.

  1. The adults from the West coast of the United States (26%) had at least one tattoo, while the percentages of adults getting a tattoo from the East coast were 21%, 18% from the South and 21% from the Midwest.
  2. Age groups where having at least one tattoo was prevalent was found to be amongst adults in the 30-39 age group in comparison to the younger and older age groups.
  3. Women, than men, were found to be more prone to getting a tattoo.
  4. Reasons for getting a tattoo ranged from peer pressure, to some thinking that it was decorative body art, while others thought it was sexy and yet others got a tattoo, just to be rebellious.
  5. Over the past few years, body art (tattoos) has been growing in popularity and is gaining acceptability.
Sources of Infection

“If you can’t beat them, join them.” Quote by Jim Henson

Therefore, those who are desirous of decorating their skin, should read up on the risks and precautions that they should take before they ink themselves up.
  1. Infections from the ink used by the tattoo parlors have been found to cause Mycobacterial infections of the skin (ref: Article on Tattoo related and Uncommon Skin Infections).
  2. The skin infections on people who had got their tattoos and who were examined were from the States of Washington, New York, Iowa and Colorado.
  3. The ink that was being distributed by a certain company to tattoo parlors nationally had the bacterial infection due to bad manufacturing practices.
  4. In some cases the tattoo artists were diluting the ink with unsterile water, instead of using sterile water.
  5. Other sources that could cause rashes, irritation, and redness, a consequence of infection, could be from contaminated needles, allergic reactions to the various pigments in the tattoo inks, a heightened sensitivity to sunlight (in the tattoo area). 
  1. Check to see whether the tattoo parlor / artist is registered with a local board of health. A copy of the facility license and the artist’s license must be hanging on the wall.
  2. Ensure that the artist wears gloves and has sterilized all the equipment in an autoclave. Parts of the machine that cannot be sterilized should be covered in disposable plastic sleeves. Also make sure the artist opens sterile packets to remove the needle. Further the artist should not be dipping into large bottles of ink, instead the artist should use small caps or crucibles, so as to avoid cross contamination.
  3. Make sure the parlor you use is clean and observes all hygienic procedures. Even licensed establishments can be sloppy. Make sure that the counters are clean and not strewn with dirty needles and used paper towels.
  4. Avoid unlicensed parlor who tempt you with cheaper prices, as this is a certain route to contracting undesirable skin infections.
  5. Despite all the precautions you may have taken, if you do develop any redness, itchiness, rashes or infection, in the area where you did get the tattoo / tattoos, consult a medical doctor, preferably a dermatologist, immediately.
Identifying a Tattoo Infection
  1. Pain factor – when the area where the tattoo is, should have healed and if you are still in pain or are feeling sore or tender, it is time to seek medical advice.
  2. Look for any swelling, redness or whether the area where the tattoo(s) is too hot to the touch (feels like a sunburn). Once again, seek medical advice, immediately.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Skin Reactions linked to Tattoos

Centuries Old Practice

For eons the human race in many parts of the world has practiced the art of embellishing the body with tattoos. The primitive civilizations used body art for decorative purposes while yet other populations used tattooing as a symbol of distinction or social rank. In the modern day world and in the past 20 years, tattooing has become a trend in many western countries.

Tattoo parlors have been increasing in numbers everywhere. Though, not all of them follow good hygienic practices. Consequently the number of tattoo related skin infections have been on the rise. Types of reactions that have been known to occur after acquiring a tattoo or several tattoos are:

1.  Acute Inflammatory Allergic Reaction

The main cause of an acute inflammatory allergic reaction of the skin to tattoos is determined to be the pigment in the inks used to affix the tattoo. More specifically the red pigment (composition - Mercury sulfide (cinnabar), Ferric hydrate (sienna), Sandalwood and Brazilwood) used in tattoos has been identified to cause allergic reactions. There are two types of allergic reactions:

  • Dermatitis – occurs on contact when the needle pierces the skin
  • Photoallergic Dermatitis – occurs when the area where the tattoo resides is exposed to the sun

2.  Eczematous Hypersensitivity

Eczematous hypersensitivity reaction is a type of allergic skin issue that occurs from tattooing. Some reactions will appear as a rash that may or may not be at the actual site of the tattoo. Eczematous Hypersensitivity reactions occur when a person is allergic to the pigments in the tattoo ink. The general allergic reaction is to mercury that is present in the red pigment. The good news is that these reactions are temporary in nature and can be treated with topical steroids.

3.  Photo-aggravated Reactions

Happen when the tattoo site is exposed to the sun and UV rays. The yellow and red pigments in the tattoo ink react when exposed to the sun, as the yellow pigment is created from cadmium sulfide. The red pigment also contains traces of cadmium and hence the allergic reaction. A red rash together with swelling can be seen around the tattoo.

4. Granulomatous Reactions

This type of reaction typically occurs in one specific pigment in the tattoo ink, which is the red pigment. There will either be one firm localized swelling at the tattoo site or multiple tiny granulomas within the color region of the tattoo. This type of reaction is always very difficult to treat. A topical injection of steroids may be tried but if this fails then the solution is to remove the tattoo, for aesthetic reasons.

5.  Lichenoid reactions

Once again it is the red pigment in the tattoo ink that produces this reaction. The signs and symptoms resemble:
  • Small, flat- topped, polygonal bumps
  • The bumps grow together into rough, scaly plaques
  • In appearance the reaction resembles lichen which is found on plants

6.  Pseudolymphonmatous Reactions
  • It is normally a delayed hypersensitivity reaction to the red tattoo pigment
  • This reaction has been found to occur when green or blue tattoo inks have been used in the tattoo, too
  • This reaction commonly ranges from plum to red colored nodules and plaques

7.  UV Black Light Reactions
  • Similar to the red pigment in the tattoo ink, some UV black light tattoo inks are also likely to cause allergic reactions
  • Inks containing phosphorous create skin rashes and leave brown scars