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What Are The Presenting Features Of A Tattoo Infection & How To Manage It?

About Tattoo Infection

Getting a tattoo done is something that most of the youngsters of today love to do. However, if proper care is not taken while getting the tattoo done then it may cause some serious damage. It can cause inflammation to infections or a variety of other reactions as well. Based on a survey done in 2017, it was observed that more than 40% of people between the age brackets of 18-70 year olds had at least one tattoo made in different areas of the body in the United States alone. Additionally, there were around 20% of people who were thinking of having one done. A study done on the risk of an infection due to tattoos revealed that around 6% of people who had tattoos made ended up having infections and other skin reactions.[1]

The main indicator of an infection after a tattoo is the presence of pain lasting for more than two days and in such cases immediate medical attention should be sought.

The primary cause for people getting infections after getting a tattoo done is the use of improper techniques and use of unsterilized equipment.[1]

However, even if all proper techniques are followed there is always a slim chance of getting an infection after tattooing. This tends to happen when there is a break in the skin allowing bacteria to get inside the body resulting in an infection. This article explains in detail the presenting features and ways to manage a Tattoo Infection.[1]

What Are The Presenting Features Of a Tattoo Infection?

What Are The Presenting Features Of a Tattoo Infection?

Once a tattoo is made from a reputed salon then there will be minor pain with redness and swelling that lasts for a couple of days. There may also be slight itching sensation. These symptoms usually go away within a matter of a week or so. However, there are cases where these symptoms not only persist but in fact get worse with time. This is an indicator of an indwelling infection as a result of tattoo. The primary presenting features of a tattoo infection include:[2]

  • Rash or lesions around the area of the tattoo
  • Fever
  • Swelling that gets worse with time
  • Drainage around the tattoo site
  • Worsening pain
  • Shaking and chills[2]

There are different types of infections that an individual can have due to tattooing. This can be caused due to the components of the ink that is used for the tattoo or it can also be caused due to bacteria, virus, or other pathogens that infiltrate the body due to a cut or a scrape when getting a tattoo done.[2]

Bacteria and Virus: They can enter the body through the tattoo site and cause an infection. The most common cause for it is using contaminated equipment.

Staphylococcus and Streptococcus are the primary bacteria that cause tattoo infection. They basically respond to antibiotics but there are some strands of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics.[2]

An untreated bacterial or viral infection due to tattoos can lead to serious complications like infection deep down within the layer of the skin or even sepsis which is a life threatening complication. Some of the conditions that can occur as a result of a bacterial or viral infection due to tattooing include:[2]

As a result of a tattoo, there may also be certain skin infections that may develop. These include worsening of an existing condition like psoriasis. Allergic contact dermatitis is yet another skin condition that can be caused due to tattoos. All these reactions will cause red itchy rash and there will be flaking of the skin depending on how severe the reaction is.[2]

Effect of Ink: The type of ink used in making a tattoo and its components also are a risk factor for tattoo infection. Generally, tattoo ink is made up of chemicals and metals which provide the tattoo its color. The pigment that the ink has may at times cause an allergic reaction since the immune system of the body perceives it as a foreign substance. This may cause red colored lesions or bumps around the site where the tattoo is made. There will also be areas or patches of itchy skin. In some cases, people also develop red colored nodules due to reaction of the tattoo ink with the skin.[2]

How to Manage Tattoo Infection?

There are various treatments available to deal with a tattoo infection. This includes medications to calm down the inflammation and improve discomfort. Medications usually given for this purpose include over the counter anti-inflammatories like Tylenol or ibuprofen.[2]

In cases of an allergic reaction due to tattoo ink then the patient will be given antihistamines to control the allergic reaction. In some cases topical creams are also provided to calm down the allergic reaction and prevent the skin from drying out. Some of the tips to practice in case of a tattoo infection include:[2]

  • Keeping the infected site as clean as possible by washing it with soap and water regularly.
  • Cover the tattooed area with a bandage.
  • Avoid scratching around the area of the tattoo.[2]

A visit to a physician is recommended in cases where there are clear signs of an infection. The physician may take a tissue sample for a biopsy to check for any bacteria or viruses that may have entered the body causing the infection. Depending on the type of infection, the physician may prescribe an antibiotic, which will be oral or topical.[2]

In case if the infection is severe, then the patient may have to be admitted in the hospital for close monitoring. In some cases, patients may have to use antibiotics for a prolonged period of time for the infection to completely clear. Some allergic reactions or lesions may never go away because the ink with which they are caused is permanent.[2]

In conclusion, Tattoo Infection is primarily caused when the equipment used in making a tattoo is either unsterilized or the person making the tattoo does not use the right technique. A tattoo infection is primarily caused by bacteria and viruses that enter the body through breaks in the skin caused by tattooing. In some cases, the components of the ink used for tattooing also trigger an allergic reaction resulting in a Tattoo Infection. It is vital in such instances for the individual to consult with a physician and get treatment soon, because if left untreated, Tattoo Infection can result in potentially serious complications, including sepsis.[2]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 20, 2020

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