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Can a Diabetic get Tattooed?

Updated on May 18, 2010

I've been told before by a diabetic client of mine (type 1) that his doctor told him that there is nothing wrong with getting tattooed if you are diabetic. That's what the client says anyhow. I know that many doctors will tell you different things about tattoos if you are a diabetic. I have heard one say, "My doc says it's fine as long as you don't use colored ink." Another one I've heard more than once is "It's fine as long as its not on my legs." I think that there is certainly some truth to these comments, but it does not apply to everyone. Let me just say that I am a tattoo artist, and I am not a doctor, nor do I have any medical training beyond a blood borne pathogen certificate.

Now there are a lot of tattoo artists that WILL NOT tattoo a diabetic under any circumstances. There are risks involved that they do not want to be responsible for. You do lose blood during a tattoo, and this can affect your blood sugar levels. Plus putting chemicals into your body (the inks) can also affect your levels. This is where the logic of "black ink only" comes into play or a diabetic. The black ink has less 'junk' in it. Most would recommend an india ink, but they have inks out now that are so called "organic." It's just a way of saying that the inks are made from all natural materials, and are less toxic (yes putting ink into your body is slightly toxic, but no big deal really). These type of 'natural' inks can be a good choice for anyone wishing to get tattooed, but you may have a hard time finding a tattoo artist that actually uses them. The effect that tattooing can have on your blood is one reason that many artists will not tattoo a diabetic.

Secondly, diabetics take longer to heal. This increased healing time means that the wound is exposed longer and more susceptible to infections. Many tattoo studios are not willing to risk their name over someone getting infected, and diabetics have a MUCH larger chance of developing some type of infection especially staph. Personally I find that infections are very rare, and can be prevented with proper care... Even for a diabetic.

Things a diabetic can do about tattoos

1.  Keep the tattoo small.  The less surface area the less chance of infection and the less blood loss.

2.  Opt for black ink only (greywashed tattoos) or ask for natural pigments.  Some artists will buy a natural pigment if you request, but DO expect to pay significantly more for the tattoo.

3.  Keep the tattoo close to the heart.  Diabetics have poor circulation, and blood flow will help you to heal more rapidly.  If you are diabetic and have poor circulation in your legs then avoid tattoos on the legs or feet.

4.  Practice very good aftercare with your tattoo.  Keep it clean, clean, clean! And let it heal.  Avoid commonly used bad aftercare practices, and let the tattoo get some air.  NEVER heal a tattoo with a jar of petroleum jelly.  Especially if your dipping your hands into the jar, you're just asking for an infection.

5.  I have heard that it is helpful for diabetics to eat something before getting tattooed, but I cannot speak fro any experience on this one.  Just something to keep in mind.

Diabetics can get tattooed, just take extra precaution.  If you find a studio that will not tattoo you then just keep looking.  And take very good care of your tattoo during it's healing time.

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