There’s a Right Way to Get Tattoos and Piercings With Hemophilia
Check with your doctor and follow best practices to get these self-expressions
Tattoos and piercings are artistically and sociologically significant in cultures across the globe. Throughout history, people have held varying opinions about each. But now that we’re a more global community, these skin-deep forms of self-expression have largely become mainstream.
I have a couple tattoos, as well as numerous piercings in my ears, nose, and navel. I’ve always been fond of adorning myself with sparkly jewelry, hence the multiple piercings. Meanwhile, the tiny tattoos I have on my wrist and forearm are reminders of the bond I share with my husband and daughter.
As my husband, Jared, is part of the hemophilia community, I know many in their number who have tattoos and piercings. One such person with severe hemophilia A shared that getting a piercing with his college friends gave him a sense of belonging.
Jared, who has severe hemophilia B, supports my desire to have my piercings and minimalist tattoos. He chooses not to get one, though — not so much because of his bleeding disorder, but because he’s prone to keloids, which are thick, raised scars. Still, he doesn’t judge others with hemophilia who choose to get them. After all, tattoos and piercings are a highly personal choice.
Health risks of piercings or tattoos
Tattoos and piercings can be a touchy subject for people with bleeding disorders, because they may pose risks. Medical providers often discourage people with bleeding disorders from getting any form of body modification, for understandable reasons. Still, many decide to get them anyway.
According to an article by HemAware, people with bleeding disorders can safely get body art and modifications, as long as they take the right precautions. But first, they must understand the risks involved.
Piercings and tattoos create open wounds, which inevitably bleed and are prone to infection. In rare cases, people may also get allergies to piercing needles, body jewelry, or tattoo pigment. Those prone to keloids might also get raised bumps around piercing sites or tattooed regions.
Piercing and tattoo aftercare
After getting a piercing or tattoo, the recipient must clean the area regularly with saline solution and observe it for signs of swelling or infection. Infections are a serious matter and must be treated immediately.
It’s important to choose a reputable tattoo or piercing parlor that upholds the highest standards of cleanliness. Unsterile equipment, particularly needles, may spread HIV, the hepatitis C virus, or bacteria.
A pediatrician did my first ear piercings when I was 6 years old. When I got my first cartilage piercing at 17, I did thorough research on the practitioners in my area. I made sure to choose a well-established studio that had the right certifications and permits. I also did an initial visit to ensure that only sterile tools and single-use needles would be used.
All the research was overwhelming at first, but it paid off because my helix piercing — in the upper cartilage of the ear — healed with no major problems.
Special considerations for people with bleeding disorders
A person with a bleeding disorder must also consider the location of their desired piercing or tattoo and speak with both their doctor and the piercer or artist about the amount of bleeding to expect. The numbers of blood vessels vary in different parts of the body, and some parts bleed longer than others.
After getting a piercing, people should resist the temptation to change the starter jewelry too soon. (Jared’s pierced colleague attests to the importance of this, as it kept his own piercing from bleeding out while he healed.)
As a piercing enthusiast, I recommend starting with a fast-healing, relatively low-maintenance piercing, such as in an earlobe. With tattoos, maybe start with a tiny one in an inconspicuous location. In both cases, you can gauge how your body responds and whether you’re able to follow through with the prescribed aftercare.
For people with bleeding disorders, certain preemptive procedures are necessary to prevent bleeding. A prophylactic infusion before getting a piercing or tattoo is recommended. Hemophilia treatment centers, according to the HemAware article, suggest getting the infusion an hour before the procedure to maintain optimal factor levels.
Piercings and tattoos are part of modern life and often topics of conversation. Should a young person with a bleeding disorder decide to get one, it’s important they’re aware of its pros and cons so they can make informed decisions. Instead of scaring them out of a decision to get them (advice that they’ll probably ignore), it’s better to have objective conversations about the risks and teach them ways to manage them.
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.