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Immune system reactions to tattoos are potentially debilitating

November 6, 2018

The Missouri Compromise, signed into law in 1820 by President James Monroe, allowed Maine into the union as a free state and Missouri in as a slave state, maintaining the balance of power between North and South in the U.S. Senate. Clearly, compromise — so often touted as a more civilized way to govern — sometimes can be downright wrong.

Well, a compromised immune system is equally unfortunate, and certain choices that you make can prove downright harmful to your body politic! That’s the message of a new study in BMJ Case Reports.

The case the researchers presented was of a young woman who got a tattoo while taking immunosuppressive drugs. She developed severe chronic pain in her left knee and thigh. A biopsy revealed that she had inflammatory myopathy — chronic muscle inflammation. It took three years of physical therapy and pain medications to make her pain-free.

Who has a compromised immune system? Anyone with AIDS; cancer (chemotherapy); an organ transplant being treated with immunosuppressive drugs; those with inherited immune system disorders; and some folks with diabetes or some autoimmune diseases.

Over 20 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. Among those 18 to 29, it’s closer to 40 percent (18 percent have six or more). So there’s a lot of overlap and risk.

The smart step: Skip the tattoo. After all, the Food and Drug Administration says that many tattoo dyes are made for “printer toner or car paint,” not injection into the human body. And there’s never any reason to voluntarily compromise your health.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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