Tattoos, although not for everybody, are a wonderful form of expression for some people. I love tattoos with meaning, and hearing the stories behind them. When I was in treatment for my eating disorder, my twin sister got my childhood nickname (“Xa”) tattooed behind her right ear, and later I got her initials behind mine. For us, it’s a way of keeping the other close and a symbol of our love for one another, not only as sisters but as best friends. (Cheesy, I know. But I love our little ink!)
For those of you lymphies who are thinking about getting inked, there are certain things to keep in mind. The process of getting a tattoo has its risks, such as infection, allergic reactions, MRI complications, and blood borne diseases. It’s really, really important to make sure that the tattoo parlor you go to is clean and that they sterilize their equipment!
When you have lymphedema, however, there are a couple more warnings to consider before getting your tattoo:
- Needles. Anytime a needle sticks the skin, it’s an invitation for infection. When you get tattooed, you are getting stuck with a needle many, many times over, and the risk is that much greater. If the skin is broken, you run the risk of seepage, which is caustic to surrounding skin tissue.
- Stress. Tattooing puts a lot of added stress on your lymphatic system, as 90% of the dye goes into the lymph nodes and stays there.
- Distortion. The swelling caused by lymphedema can seriously stretch out and distort your tattoo, making it look pretty weird and therefore regrettable.
- Removal. The laser treatments used to remove tattoos can be harmful to tissues that are already damaged by the lymphedema.
Your lymphedema limb is immunocompromised, which means it can’t adequately fight bacteria and infections. Even if you get your tattoo in a spot that’s not affected, there is the potentiality that it can travel through your system and end up in your affected area. Additionally, bacteria thrives in a protein-rich environment, like lymphorrhea (the fluid that collects in lymphedema limbs), which can cause seepage and infections.
My opinion? You should avoid getting a tattoo anywhere on or near your affected limb(s), and make sure you get it at a place that’s legitimate and clean.
Do any of you have tattoos? Did they affect your lymphedema? Please share your experiences in the comments below!