I Have Hemophilia and Tattoos, and I Don’t Regret It

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by Shellye Horowitz |

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A few years ago, I went to a tattoo convention. Before I could enter, I was required to sign a liability release. The form said that people with bleeding disorders (and a long list of other conditions) should not get tattoos. Needless to say, I am not always a rule follower, and I was incredibly happy with the finished product.

That was my third tattoo. Each tattoo was a completely different healing experience for me. The long-term quality, particularly the tattoo’s color, was greatly affected by how well I healed. And how well I healed was determined by the plan I had to treat the “wound” caused by the tattoo.

Attitudes toward tattoos

I have noticed that healthcare providers who treat people with hemophilia have varied responses for patients who want tattoos. Some care providers refuse to work with hemophilia patients who want tattoos, referring to those situations as unnecessary harm done to the patients’ bodies.

Other care providers caution patients to get tattoos at their own risk. And some providers will work with their patients to ensure a safe tattooing experience.

Faded tattoo No. 1

My first tattoo has not held up well. I had no factor treatment before or after. Honestly, I do not remember how long it took to heal. I was in my 20s and a bit oblivious. It had hearts and flowers inside, but those can’t be deciphered at this point. The inside is a big blob. It did not heal well from the start.

My first tattoo is now faded. (Photo by Shellye Horowitz)

Tattoo No. 2

This tattoo had a bit more healing help. I had a half-dose of factor before I got the tattoo. It took over two weeks to heal and was very swollen for a few days after. It is on my wrist, which is a pretty sensitive place.

My wrist tattoo caused considerable swelling. (Photo by Shellye Horowitz)

Tattoo No. 3

I got my third tattoo on a prophylaxis day. I had a full dose. Because it was swollen and weepy, I needed factor doses for two days post-tattoo as well. This one healed beautifully. In fact, I was swimming in a river in Hawaii about nine days after I got the tattoo — and it was completely healed!

Third time’s a charm. (Photo by Shellye Horowitz)

Tattoo or not tattoo?

Some people think it is irresponsible and frivolous for a person with hemophilia to get a tattoo. The ones who label it irresponsible believe a tattoo isn’t worth the risk of getting a bleed. Those who say it’s frivolous think it is irresponsible to waste expensive factor to protect oneself while choosing to get a tattoo. I personally believe that a hemophilia diagnosis should not strip a person of the right to express themselves, including in the form of a tattoo.

I know many people with hemophilia who have tattoos. People with hemophilia should not have to sacrifice self-expression as a result of having the disorder. I also believe that medical providers should not turn away people with hemophilia who seek assistance so they can safely get a tattoo. Rather than put up a roadblock of judgment, support and encouragement to obtain a tattoo safely should be paramount.

After three tattoos, will I go for more? Stay tuned! I will say that if I pursue additional tattoos, it will only be with the help and guidance of my hemophilia treatment center. I want to express myself safely.

Tattoo safely, everyone! (Photo by Shellye Horowitz)


Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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