Having diabetes does not mean that you cannot have a tattoo, and diabetes-specific tattoos can even act as forms of identification.

Make sure you are 100 per cent sure certain about getting a tattoo, as changes of heart are common, while having a tattoo removed can be more expensive that the initial application.

Blood sugar control

Ensuring good control of your blood sugar levels is essential before getting a tattoo.

Poor control of blood glucose levels can lead to infections, such as gangrene, as the tattoo will not heal as quickly and could result in complications. You should also keep your blood pressure within the recommended target range beforehand.

Having a tattoo, particularly a complex and time-consuming design, can be a painful and stressful experience. Blood sugar levels and blood pressure can both rise during application.

Keep your blood sugar levels stable before receiving a tattoo to prevent any complications in the healing process.

You should inform the tattooist of your diabetes prior to application, and if necessary, arrange a longer session to account for regular breaks of roughly every hour to test blood sugar levels.

Additional blood testing should be administered in the following days afterwards, although any effects on your blood sugar from receiving a tattoo should have culminated within a couple of days.

Awareness and safety

There are many risks not related to diabetes that can occur as a result of having a tattoo, including:

  • Skin infections – If unclean equipment is used or proper aftercare is not administered then the area of your skin tattooed could become infected
  • Allergic reactions – Due to the substances used in the inks and equipment. Very occasionally, people can develop allergic reactions to tattoos they have had for years
  • Scarring – Known as keloids, these scars can be irritating and painful following tattoo application. They can occur any time you injure or traumatise your skin
  • Blood-borne diseases – You could be at risk of HIV and hepatitis B or C if thorough sterilisation of the tattoo needle or ink has not occurred

If you start to feel unwell, or notice any swelling or signs of infection following your tattoo, you should seek immediate help from a healthcare professional.

Placement

Tattoos can be applied to nearly every body part, including the face, elbows and neck, but certain areas with poor circulation should be avoided for people with diabetes.

These include the buttocks, feet, ankles and shins, while commonly used injection sites such as arms, thighs and the stomach should also not be tattooed.

Receiving tattoos on these body parts can result in complications, such as infections, and will usually take longer to heal.

Tattooist quality

Some people get tattoos impulsively, at festivals, or to commemorate a particular occasion, but great thought should be given before getting one.

Particularly, you should investigate high-quality tattooists beforehand that are fully licensed and carry a good reputation. The greater the company’s standing, the more likely their hygiene standards and safety practises will be exemplary.

Nanotechnology tattoos and diabetes

Nanotechnology is being developed by scientists that could provide a revolutionary way for people with diabetes to monitor and blood glucose levels.

Scientists at the Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences in Boston, US, are hoping an ultraviolet (UV) reactive “nano-tattoo” could eradicate finger pricking to test blood sugar levels.

Instead of conventional tattoo colour pigments, a nanoparticle solution would be used in an invisible tattoo composed of tiny particles that are sensitive to glucose concentrations.

These particles, which contain sensor molecules, are designed to react to glucose and shine when exposed to the UV light.

A device worn over the nano-tattoo would detect and measure the reaction to glucose and send readings to the patient.