I Have Diabetes. Can I Get a Tattoo?
Want a tattoo, but not sure if you can get one with diabetes? Our experts weigh in.
By: Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Tattoos. They are more popular than ever. Today, more than 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. But if you have diabetes, getting a tattoo may pose unique risks.
As diabetes educators, people sometimes ask us for advice about getting a tattoo. When you have diabetes, you really have to consider the physical consequences of everything you do.
People may not realize that to get a tattoo, the skin is pierced between 50 and 3,000 times a minute by a tattoo machine. Your skin is a barrier that protects you from infections. Getting a tattoo breaks this barrier. A tattoo affects the dermis, or the second layer of skin, because the cells of the dermis are more stable than the first layer, or epidermis.
Piercing skin at this level poses unique risks to people with diabetes. If your blood sugars are not in good control, your immune system is also affected — putting you at even higher risk for infection and potential difficulty fighting it off.
Tattooing is under strict hygiene rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of this risk of infection. The needles must only be used once and the tattoo artist must wear gloves while doing the work. According to the FDA, among the most severe infections that can be transmitted is hepatitis.
If you have considered the risk, and still want to get a tattoo, remember to do the following:
By taking the right precautions, you can be sure that you are making an informed decision about tattoos and risks involved when you have diabetes. Taking the time to involve your doctor could prevent future problems. Body art is beautiful, but a healthy body is even more beautiful.