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Tattoo danger – That new ink could cause complications

You might like the way they look, but about one in 10 people who get tattoos experience complications, according to a small study in the June issue of the journal “Contact Dermatitis.”

A new study shows that about one in 10 people have complications when getting a tattoo. (Ron Chapple studios, ThinkStock)

Dr. Russell L. Ashinoff, MD, a Board certified plastic surgeon in Ocean County, said aside from tattoo regret, some people may also have medical reactions to the skin art.

“You can develop allergic reactions to the tattoos and removing them can be painful and difficult, as well as expensive,” Ashinoff said.

While most reputable tattoo parlors now use standard techniques to sterilize their equipment and communicable diseases have become less common, allergic reactions to the tattoo ink can occur, including contact dermatitis, Dr. Ashinoff said.

“Often you can get some redness or irritation in the area, even hives in certain situations,” Ashinoff said.

According to Ashinoff, tattoo inks are not closely monitored in the United States, so you never really know what you’re getting.

“Different brands are, I’m sure, formulated differently so they are not regulated like medications are regulated by the government,” he said.

Allergic reactions to tattoos may require treatment with antihistamines and other medications. If you do develop symptoms, Ashinoff recommends going to your family doctor and if necessary, you’ll be referred to a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon for treatment.

When it comes to having a tattoo removed, historically, the process involved scraping the skin with a rough substance or chemicals. The development of lasers to remove tattoos minimizes complications, but it’s a long and involved treatment that can be uncomfortable, according to Ashinoff.

“Most patients describe it as a feeling of a rubber band snapping on their skin, and it can take five to 10 treatments to remove the tattoo.” he said. “Many times you can’t remove it completely because not all the inks respond well to the laser treatment.”

Ashinoff said the tattoo pigment absorbs the laser energy and fragments it and then the body absorbs it. However, some pigments reflect the laser energy, which is why greens and yellows are harder to remove.

“So some of those remain or you see ghost shadows at the completion of the process,” he said.

Ashinoff has treated several patients for tattoo removal because the art either didn’t come off completely or their reason for getting it had changed and they wanted it removed.

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