With the ever increasing popularity of tattoos, one man’s experience serves as a word of caution. Derek contacted us to say that he would like to share with others one potential risk factor in having a tattoo that had neither occurred to him nor been flagged up in advance of the procedure.
Last year, after considerable deliberation, he finally took the plunge and had his first ever tattoo; a relatively modest one on his right forearm. He was given instructions on how to care for the ‘wounded’ area whilst it healed and told that his arm would be sore for a couple of weeks and possibly a little longer. However, the soreness did not subside as expected, but rather the pain increased and he began to notice swelling. Believing that he had an infection he attended his doctor who agreed that infection was indeed the most likely cause. Antibiotics were prescribed but subsequently these had no noticeable effect.
It was at this stage that Derek remembered experiencing similar symptoms many years before, following surgery to his other (left) wrist. Going back through his records, his doctor advised him that following the earlier surgery he had been diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1 (CRPS). Fortunately for him, it had been diagnosed early and ultimately his symptoms seem to have gone into total remission.
Now, following referral to a specialist, Derek has received confirmation of what he already suspected, that he has had a recurrence of CRPS.
As we have discussed in an earlier article, the chance of a recurrence of CRPS following remission is greater than the chance of it occurring for the first time. Also, if it does recur following a period of remission, it won’t necessarily recur at the same site and may recur spontaneously.
Of course, for Derek the recurrence of CRPS in proximity to the tattoo may be entirely coincidental, but that would be a huge coincidence. Certainly, those treating him have attributed the tattoo as the trigger.
Just as with surgery, before having a tattoo, good practice dictates that informed consent should be given. In other words, the person having the tattoo should be made fully aware of the possible consequences of proceeding. Consent should then be evidenced by the signing of a consent form. In the UK, there is no standard form used by tattoo artists, who despite a registration requirement remain a largely self-regulated profession. From what we can ascertain (and as might be expected), warnings on consent forms tend to relate only to common health conditions / risk factors.
Avoid unnecessary trauma
As highlighted in our earlier article, statistically the chance of the recurrence of CRPS is relatively high. That doesn’t mean to say that people in total or partial remission should wrap themselves in cotton wool. However, Derek believes that they should be made aware of that heightened risk and avoid subjecting themselves to unnecessary bodily trauma. Of course, that isn’t limited to tattoos. Other cosmetic procedures will pose a similar risk, body piercing being another clear and obvious example.