Tattoos are more popular in the U.S. than ever before. Surveys show that nearly one-third of Americans have at least one tattoo, and almost a quarter of Americans have multiple tattoos. The expanding use of tattoos has driven their popularity and acceptance. Tattooing is now used for applying permanent makeup and covering skin imperfections, as well as decorating the skin.
But, tattooing can pose serious health risks when performed negligently. Poor sanitation, improper aftercare, and even contaminated ink can cause a wide range of bacterial and viral infections. These infections, in turn, can cause complications like sepsis, scarring, and blood-borne diseases that permanently affect your health and quality of life.
When it comes to tattoo infection injuries, here is what you need to know.
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How Does Tattooing Affect Your Skin?
Your skin has three layers. The epidermis is the uppermost layer. It blocks water, microorganisms, and other contaminants from getting into the body. It also forms a water-tight barrier to limit the amount of moisture that evaporates from your body.
The middle layer, called the dermis, performs most of the functions of the skin. It provides the support structure for the blood vessels that feed oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. It also supports the nerve endings that provide your sense of touch. Finally, the oil glands, sweat glands, and hair follicles are all contained within the dermis.
The hypodermis forms the lowest layer. This layer contains fat to insulate the body. It also includes connective tissue to secure the skin to the muscles.
Tattooing uses tiny needles to deposit ink in the dermis. The body recognizes the tattoo ink as foreign and sends white blood cells to deal with it. White blood cells neutralize threats by surrounding and engulfing them. They hold the ink particles in the dermis as the skin heals around them. When the skin heals, it traps the ink permanently.
In addition to its cosmetic use for art and permanent makeup, tattoos also have a medical use. Doctors can use tattoos to cover scars from burn injuries, birthmarks, and other disfiguring conditions.
What Are Some Causes of Tattoo Infection Injuries?
The needles that push the ink into the dermis create millions of tiny open wounds. Normally, the skin blocks microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites from entering the body. However, the wounds from the tattoo needles provide the perfect opening for microorganisms to bypass the skin.
Some common vectors for tattoo infections include:
- Contaminated ink
- Unsanitary equipment and facilities
- Lack of masks or gloves
- Failure to clean the skin before starting
Once inside the body, bacteria, viruses, and parasites can create havoc. They will multiply and compete with your body cells for resources. Some pathogens even release toxins to provide a tactical advantage in their competition.
Your body will trigger an immune response. The response will include inflammation and fever. White cells rush to the injury site, and swelling causes the blood vessels to narrow, trapping them. Most pathogens can only live at normal body temperatures. Fever helps in the battle against pathogens by weakening and killing them.
Many types of pathogens can enter through the wounds created by tattooing, including:
- Viruses like molluscum contagiosum, hepatitis A, B, and C, and HIV
- Bacteria like staphylococcus, streptococcus, tetanus, and leprosy
These microorganisms can cause both short-term illnesses and long-term — or even life-threatening — infections.
What Are the Possible Effects of a Tattoo Infection Injury?
Each type of pathogen causes different symptoms and requires different treatments. During your infection, you might experience effects such as:
A certain type of antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria can cause an infection called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Since the bacteria does not respond to many antibiotics, doctors must find one that can work or switch to non-antibiotic drugs like sulfa. Occasionally, doctors will need to operate to remove the infected tissue.
Sepsis is an extreme reaction to an infection. It often happens when the microorganisms reach your bloodstream. The blood infection causes your body to take drastic measures, like fever, chills, pain, and swelling, that can make you extremely sick.
Gangrene happens when body tissue dies and begins to decompose. The decaying tissue releases toxins into your bloodstream. Surgery is typically necessary to remove the dead tissue.
Some viruses transmitted by tattooing can cause long-term illnesses. Hepatitis B, C, and D can become chronic, affecting you for the rest of your life. In some cases, hepatitis can cause cirrhosis of the liver and death.
Tattooing can also transmit human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). If caught early, doctors can administer treatments to control the virus. But in some cases, HIV develops into AIDS, a potentially terminal illness.
What Complications Can Arise from a Tattoo Infection?
In addition to these effects, tattoo infections can also cause complications such as:
Scars and Disfigurement
An infection can permanently damage the skin, producing scars. If doctors need to operate to drain the infection or remove infected tissue, you may have scarring or disfigurement from your operation.
When an infection damages tissue severely enough, doctors may need to amputate the infected body part. An amputation injury comes with its own issues. Losing a body part causes permanent disabilities. You may also experience phantom pain, depression, and anxiety after an amputation.
Infections can cause death due to high fever, toxins in the blood, sepsis, and gangrene. Death from infections was common before the invention of antibiotics. Now, doctors can treat most infections. As a result, the infections that cause death typically are either untreated or involve antibiotic-resistant pathogen strains.
How Can You Get Compensation For a Tattoo Infection Injury?
Tattoo artists and their shops might be liable for infections resulting from negligence. In this respect, tattoo artist liability is similar to medical malpractice. Not all adverse outcomes constitute negligence. Instead, you must show that the tattoo artist or shop failed to exercise reasonable care.
The tattoo artist can bear liability for injuries caused by their negligence, while the shop can bear liability for its negligent acts or the negligent acts of its employees.
Some ways a shop can fail to exercise reasonable care might include:
- Failing to sanitize work areas or provide cleaning supplies
- Hiring tattoo artists without checking their licenses or work histories
- Not providing training
After your personal injury attorney proves liability, you can seek compensation for your economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages include your medical bills, wage losses, and other financial costs. Non-economic damages cover the reduction in your quality of life due to pain, mental anguish, disability, and disfigurement.
A Miami Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Pursue a Claim for an Infected Tattoo Injury
A tattoo infection injury can produce serious or even life-threatening illnesses. A seasoned Florida personal injury lawyer can fight to obtain the compensation you need to recover from your injury.