Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can affect people of all ages. Individuals with epilepsy experience sudden changes in the brain’s electrical activity, called seizures. During a seizure, they may jerk, shake, or twitch. They may also lose consciousness.
Due to these symptoms, a person with epilepsy may have concerns about getting a tattoo, a form of body art that an artist inks permanently into the skin.
Tattoos have long been a part of human culture, and they are growing in popularity. Surveys suggest that almost 1 in 3 people have at least one tattoo.
There is no evidence to indicate that tattoos can trigger seizures or have additional risks for people with epilepsy.
Keep reading to learn more about epilepsy and tattoos, including the risks and the best types.
Yes, people with epilepsy can get tattoos. There are no strict medical contraindications to getting tattoos done, including epilepsy.
However, some groups of people should seek medical advice before getting a tattoo. These people include those with chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis, as well as individuals living with diabetes, blood disorders, and immunosuppressive conditions. Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding people should discuss any plans for tattoos with a doctor.
If someone with epilepsy also has a condition that may affect their suitability for a tattoo, they should seek a doctor’s advice.
People with epilepsy may be worried about having a seizure while having a tattoo. Although there is no evidence that tattoos can trigger seizures, a person may find it beneficial to discuss any concerns with their tattoo artist and a doctor. In addition, a person may feel more prepared if they let the tattoo artist know what to do in the event of a seizure.
Risks of tattoos for epilepsy
There are some risks associated with getting tattoos. Anyone considering getting a tattoo, regardless of whether they have epilepsy or another health condition, should be aware of the following risks:
- Infection: The process of tattooing creates minute holes in the skin. If bacteria or other pathogens enter these tiny wounds and multiply, an infection may result. Additionally, unhygienic tattooing practices, such as using equipment that is not sterile, can cause infections. Mold and bacteria may also contaminate the tattoo pigment, even in sealed bottles.
- Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to the ink or other materials in tattoos. Allergic reactions can range from mild skin irritation to a serious condition called anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening.
- Scarring: If a tattoo becomes infected or a person has an allergic reaction, there is an increased risk of the tattoo scarring. Some people may also develop keloid scars, which are raised bumps of old scar tissue.
- MRI complications: There have been cases where people with tattoos have experienced swelling or burning at the tattoo site during MRI scans. Although this is rare, it is best to make the doctor aware of any tattoos before they order an MRI.
Due to the risks involved in getting a tattoo, it is important that people only use reputable tattoo artists working from registered premises. Many state laws require the use of sterilized needles and equipment, but people should check before making an appointment.
In addition to raising the risk of infection, unsterile equipment increases the risk of bloodborne illnesses, such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Best types of tattoos for people with epilepsy
No specific type of tattoo is best for someone with epilepsy. For many people, tattoos are a way to express themselves. Individuals may opt for a tattoo that represents their condition or want something completely unrelated to their health.
Some ideas for tattoos related to epilepsy include:
- the international symbol of awareness for epilepsy
- a medical ID bracelet or necklace in the form of a tattoo
- a quote or phrase that is meaningful or empowering to the person with epilepsy
- a tattoo of a seizure support animal
A person may find it helpful to research designs they like and then discuss their plans with an experienced and reputable tattoo artist. A skilled tattoo artist can design and draw a tattoo specific to a person’s preferences.
Precautions and management
Some people prefer to have tattoos that they can cover easily with clothing. If this is the case, a person should consider the size and location of the tattoo.
It is also worth considering that tattoos are permanent. Although it is possible to remove them, it is a painstaking process that may leave a person with scars.
Additionally, people should be prepared to care for their tattoos properly to prevent infections and scarring. Tattoo professionals may advise slightly different approaches to aftercare, but it typically involves:
- keeping the tattoo covered with a polyurethane bandage for the first 24 hours
- washing the hands before touching a fresh tattoo
- limiting contact with the tattoo
- applying aftercare ointment for up to 3 days
- refraining from picking any skin or scabs from the tattoo
- avoiding swimming, bathing, and saunas until the tattoo heals completely
- avoiding sun exposure
People should also seek medical attention if the tattoo appears infected. Infection causes:
- increased weeping
- discharge of yellow or green fluid
- an unpleasant smell
- pain and swelling
- throbbing, burning, or discoloration around the tattooed area
Although getting a tattoo has some associated risks, people with epilepsy can get one if they take proper precautions. This means using a professional and reputable tattoo artist who only uses sterile equipment.
Using unsterile equipment is risky and can result in HIV and hepatitis C infections. The other potential risks of tattoos include allergic reactions, scarring, and problems during MRI scans.
There is no specific type of tattoo that is best for someone with epilepsy, and many people choose designs that are meaningful to them. Some people may also choose to have their medical alert information as a permanent tattoo rather than wearing a necklace or bracelet.