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Sporting a tattoo might be the latest fad amongst youngsters, but doctors warn against the potential hazards that it can cause. Even though tattoo artists replace the needles, the paint is the same, and doctors warn that infectious blood can be transferred through these paints.

The infections spread most commonly through tattooing are Hepatitis B and C. The latter is 100 times more infectious than HIV and no vaccines are available for the disease.

The paints used to make tattoos are expensive and often imported. Hence artists use the same bottle for multiple clients. However, since the process of making a tattoo involves penetration of the needle deep into the dermis (layer under the skin surface), some blood always gets transferred into the paint bottle, said Dr Ajay K Sachdev, head, surgical gastroenterology and GI, oncology at Artemis Institute of Healthcare.

Dr Sachdev added: The chances of the virus entering the blood stream of a person are more if he gets the tattoo done immediately after an infected person at the tattoo parlour. Also, since Hepatitis C might go undetected for years, a carrier does not usually know the extent of damage caused to his body.According to Dr Mandeep Singh, consultant, plastic and cosmetic surgery at Columbia Asia, paints used in the process can also cause other infections like bacterial, fungal, allegoric reactions, ulcers and rashes.

Whenever we admit a patient with a tattoo, we make sure to test him for certain diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. Since the paint used is a usually made from a heavy metal, a pregnant woman getting a tattoo done in the first trimester of her pregnancy can pass the infections even to the fetus, said Dr Singh.

According to doctors, the only way to avoid such infections is by insisting that the artist replace the used ink with a fresh bottle of paint. The charges will definitely be higher. However, compared to HIV, the Hepatitis B and C viruses survive longer even outside the human body and hence it is important to be careful, said Dr Nandini Hazarika, consultant, oncology and haematology, Max Hospital.


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