Body Arts or Piercings May Lead to Even Heart Infection

Body Arts or Piercings May Lead to Even Heart Infection

In today's society, body art, the most popular form being piercings and tattoos. Evidence of body art has shown up on a 2,000-year-old Russian mummy with tattoos on her biceps. Even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, of the extremely conservative Victorian fame supposedly sported tattoos (Victoria) and piercings (Albert, the famed penile piercing that is now named after him).


Body art and piercing are becoming so common that many parents are allowing their children to make what are, in effect, lifelong decisions about indelible, permanent "body art. Television shows are helping to make the trend more popular. Some of the dyes used in tattooing for insertion into the skin are not permitted to be used as cosmetics on the skin. Little is known about the toxicology or even the composition of some of the dyes.

A Study suggests approximately 10 percent of teenagers have tattoos. Surveys of high school and college students suggest that 25 to 35 percent have body piercings. Of those between the ages of 13 to 25 years of age up to 25 percent will also have tattoos. Among them Tattooing and body piercing was associated with high risk behaviors such as sexual intercourse, smoking, marijuana use, behavioral eating disorder, gateway drug use and fighting, violent activities etc. as well as truancy in a survey of adolescents and teens.

Last month (November 12, 2007), officials in West Milton voted 4-2 to prohibit tattoo and body-piercing parlors from operating in the city, citing the potential of unsterile needles to spread hepatitis and HIV. The town of 4,700, located north of Dayton, may be the first Ohio city to ban the businesses.

Skin and mucous membranes in the mouth and nose protect you from many infections. Both tattooing and ear/body piercing procedures involve piercing the skin or mucous membrane with a needle or other sharp instrument. Unless the needles are new, sterilized for each treatment and properly handled by the practitioner, instruments can be contaminated with the infected blood or bodily fluids of another person and may lead to blood-borne diseases include hepatitis B and C, tetanus, and HIV."

Tattoos or Permanent body art are created by rapidly and repeatedly injecting ink into the dermal layer of the skin with a small needle to develop a permanent coloration. Your body may form bumps called granulomas around tattoo ink, especially if your tattoo includes red ink. Beyond the pain often associated with getting a tattoo, other risks include skin and blood infections, allergic reactions to the pigments, thick scars called keloids, photosensitivity reactions, psoriasis, and benign or malignant tumors.

Tattoos can lead to local bacterial infections. Typical signs and symptoms of an infection include redness, warmth, swelling and a pus-like drainage. Some antibiotic-resistant skin infections can lead to pneumonia, bloodstream infections and a painful, flesh-destroying condition called necrotizing fasciitis. Bacterial infectious diseases transmitted by tattooing include the following bacteria:

Hepatitis, HIV and other viral infections:

Viral infections and diseases potentially transmitted by tattooing include the following viruses:

The risk of chronic hepatitis infection is highest in patients with a history of parenteral exposure to the virus (e.g., because of blood transfusions, intravenous drug use, or work-related duties), cocaine use, body art, body piercing, and high-risk sexual behavior.

Although sexual activity and drug involvement may not pose immediate threats to children, many adolescents are involved in two seemingly innocent activities – body piercing and tattooing – that increase their risk for acquiring hepatitis B and another potentially deadly virus called hepatitis C. The use of contaminated tattooing or body piercing equipment increases risk, as does the sharing of razors or toothbrushes that are contaminated with blood.

Hepatitis B is often transmitted through sexual activity but people can also get it from contaminated needles or any other medical or cosmetic procedure that penetrates the skin — such as those used for tattooing, body piercing, or drugs.

Other complications:

A 17-year-old Newfoundland girl is believed to have died from toxic shock syndrome - and the infection that killed her may have resulted from a nipple piercing, the province's chief medical examiner says; according to Canadian Press published in March, 2006.

A federal pilot project by Canadian govt. launched in August 2005; revealed that 3303 inmates in Canada's 54 prisons had hepatitis C in 2004; an overall prevalence of 25.2% (women: 37.4%; men: 24.8%). That same year, 2472 HCV positive inmates were released. As well, 188 inmates were infected with HIV, for a prevalence of 1.43% (women: 3.44%; men: 1.37%), while 235 HIV-positive inmates were released. Meanwhile, a national survey indicates tattooing has become such an inherent part of prison culture that 45% of inmates receive tattoos and 17% have body piercing, often using dirty needles.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2002 attempted to show that adolescents aged 12 to 22 with tattoos or body piercings showed a higher rate of using hard or gateway drugs, more risky sexual and eating behaviors, tendencies towards violence and higher suicide rates.

Most recent findings:

Children and teenagers with congenital heart disease should be strongly discouraged from getting a tattoo or piercing their ears or other body part, because it could lead to a potentially deadly infection of the heart, doctors from the UK warn in a report.

In recent years, there have been several reports of people developing endocarditis and other serious infections after tattooing and body piercing, and infection has resulted in at least one death. Infective endocarditis occurs when bacteria or fungi attaches and begins to grow on the valves of the heart. If left untreated, it can lead to a fatal destruction of heart muscle.

Despite these reports, there is little general consensus about how patients with heart disease should be advised about tattooing and bodying piercing, according to a report in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

To investigate, Dr. Suhair O. Shebani from Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, and colleagues conducted a survey of 600 patients attending pediatric cardiology clinics and 69 pediatric cardiologists, some of whom were still treating adults with congenital heart disease.

Of the 486 heart patients surveyed, 87 (about 18 percent) had body art; 86 patients had piercings, and one had a tattoo. One of these individuals developed endocarditis after an ear piercing. The average age of the piercing group was 12 years, while the patient who got the tattoo was 15 years old.

Sixty-two percent of these young people (54 out of 78) were not aware that they should talk to their doctor before tattooing or piercing their body. Among the 33 patients who sought advice about body art, 12 asked their heart doctor: 4 were advised against it, 6 were told to take sterile precautions, and 2 were told that there was no need for precautions.

Twenty-one patients sought advice from non-heart specialists: 5 were advised against body art, 8 were advised to take precautions, and 8 were told there was no need for precautions. "While it is worrying that most patients in our group did not seek advice before having body art, it is of greater concern that those who did seek advice were given such widely varying recommendations," Shebani and colleagues write.

"Body art in the form of tattoos and piercing has become increasingly popular amongst children and teenagers, and is nowadays more socially acceptable," the UK team notes in their report. "Better knowledge and education about the link between body art and endocarditis is required in order to provide guidelines for doctors and patients."

They also find it troublesome that most of the pediatric heart doctors surveyed were not aware that tattooing could lead to an infection of the heart and most indicated that they did not routinely offer advice about body art. For the time being, Shebani and colleagues "strongly discourage all forms of body art." For those who cannot be dissuaded, they recommend antibiotics be given prior to tattooing or piercing, "with strong advice for prompt treatment of any signs of subsequent infection."

Awareness for travelers:

Unvaccinated travelers are at risk of Hepatitis C virus, HIV, STD if they have unprotected sex or use contaminated needles or syringes for injection, acupuncture, piercing or tattooing. Skin-piercing instruments may be shared during tattooing, manicures, pedicures, or receiving injections or transfusions, undergo surgery, and even barbering and shaving with communal razors while traveling.

Piercings in sensitive areas can be dangerous. It’s dark, damp and wet places where infections occur. Genital tattooing are common in Nigeria, particularly in the west among the Yoruba and the middle-belt region among the Tiv. Among these and some other Nigerian tribes, cuts are made for identification, beautification, and other ritual purposes and have role in transmitting HIV infection.

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