Kidney Disease and Tattoos

February 16, 2017, 8:10pm EST

What if someone with kidney disease wants to use the design to have a permanent tattoo instead? Is it safe? 

This is a frequent question and the concern centers around hygiene and the prevention of infections which could include HIV, Hepatitis B and C. People treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant would be more vulnerable to such infections; though there is no specific evidence stating that people with kidney disease should not get permanent tattoos. General infections for kidney transplant patients are most common in the first 30 days post- transplant; but after about six months the risks of infection will generally decrease. Each kidney transplant patient should consult with their transplant team and healthcare professional before determining if a permanent tattoo is a safe option. While National Kidney Foundation (NKF) does not endorse permanent tattoos, should transplant patients pursue this option, NKF strongly recommends a waiting period of at least six months post-transplant. In addition, anyone with chronic kidney disease from stage 1 up to and including dialysis should consult with their healthcare professional before deciding on a permanent tattoo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an excellent overview of the risks associated with permanent tattoos for the general population, which you may read here. Because tattoo inks are injected directly into people’s skin, CDC recommends that ink manufacturers produce sterile inks. To protect their clients, tattoo artists should do the following: 

  • Don’t use inks or other products that are not intended for tattooing;
  • Don’t dilute ink before tattooing; if dilution is needed, use only sterile water;
  • Don’t use non-sterile water to rinse equipment (for example, needles) during tattooing;
  • Use aseptic technique during tattooing (e.g., maintain hand hygiene, use clean disposable gloves properly).

To reduce their risk of infection, CDC recommends that consumers should:

  • Use tattoo parlors approved/registered by their local jurisdictions;
  • Request inks that are manufactured specifically for tattoos;
  • Ensure that tattoo artists follow appropriate hygienic practices;
  • Be aware of the potential for infection after tattooing and promptly seek medical care if skin problems occur.