We are all well aware of the fact that there are risks associated with tattoos. Despite the fact that these dangers have, over the course of the development and refinement of tattooing, been reduced the precautions are fallible, as we well know.

The first and most prominent risk involved in getting a tattoo is the risk of infection. Tattooing requires the penetration of the dermis with the needles, which are not in all cases sterile. If the needle is used on multiple individuals the risk of infection with staph, tetanus, hepatitis, of course HIV remains possible (despite the fact that there have been no reported cases of HIV transmission from unsterile tattooing needles), and others is possible.

How Tattoos Work

(How a tattoo is applied to the skin - Copyright HowStuffWorks.com)

However, the vast majority of professional tattoo studios employ a single-use policy with their needles and therefore greatly reduce the risk of transmission of these diseases and infections. As for the other infections, the most overlooked method of prevention is to not consume alcohol or blood-thinning pain medications prior to getting a tattoo. Both increase the amount of bleeding.

There is also the risk, though minimal at best, of an allergic reaction to the ink. Most such reactions are recorded in certain brands of red and green ink. The most common reaction is swelling, itching, and general discomfort in the area of the tattoo. Occasionally, some seepage of a clear fluid may occur.

One even less common risk is the association between certain tattoo inks and MRI’s. According to research, a small number of tattoo-bearing patients have been effected while undergoing this test. The reason for this is that certain pigments contain trace amounts of metals. There is at least one reported example of a tattoo-induced skin burn during an MRI, and distortion of the tattoo can also, reportedly, occur. According to the American Chemical Society, these reactions are most commonly seen in homemade tattoos done with metal-heavy inks.

Finally, there is the heavy risk associated with homemade tattoos. It is strongly suggested that this not be practiced, as more often than not they are done in standard drawing inks. These inks contain impurities and toxins which may cause illness and infection in the tattooed individuals.

Provided that the tattoo is given in a sterile parlor with a single-use policy for their needles, the health risks associated with tattoos are very small. The only way to expose yourself to any significant danger is to use inferior or unsterilized equipment and inks. Let the professionals do their work, and the chances of any complications, even minor ones, is small.