Stay Safe, Stay Cautious: Tattoos, unsterilized needles and the threat of Hepatitis C
A disease that causes the inflammation of the liver is known as Hepatitis C. Originated by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) which impedes the functioning of the liver, Hepatitis C may result in other serious medical conditions, predominantly cirrhosis and cancer. The main reason for the spread of HCV virus remains contaminated or infected blood. The virus reaches the bloodstream via infected needles, unsterilized tattoo equipment etc.
As per the latest reports by the WHO, every year around 1 million Hepatitis C cases are recorded in India. Moreover, it is found that about 6 to 12 million people are chronically infected by Hepatitis C.
Tattoos and the risk of Hepatitis C
Some prominent studies have suggested that a major chunk of the population suffering from Hepatitis C got infected by the virus via tattooing. Now the question arises, how is this possible? To answer this, let’s look at the procedure of tattooing. When you get a tattoo on your skin, it gets pierced by a needle. The ink is then injected into the skin which creates patterns or designs. This means your blood remains in contact with the needle during this entire procedure. If the needle/equipment used in tattooing is unsterilized, the chances of getting a Hepatitis C virus enhance. However, this can be avoided if you remain extra careful about the equipment used in tattooing. Also, make sure that the chosen tattoo artist is a professional.
Factors you must consider while getting tattooed to avoid the risk of getting infected with HCV:
• First and foremost, choose a tattoo parlour which is certified. You can also ask for recommendations from someone who had been to that tattoo parlour before.
• Make sure that the tattoo artist uses the new needle.
• You must enquire if the equipment used by your tattoo artist is sterilized. Do not go forward with the tattooing procedure if his reply is not affirmative.
• Ask your tattoo artist to put on a fresh pair of latex gloves before he starts with the procedure.
• If the ink is out of the container once, make sure that your tattoo artist doesn’t put it back in the container.
• Check whether your tattoo artist is using a disinfecting cleaner to clean the area after every session of tattooing.
Another important thing to note here is that the risk of HCV is not limited to the people who are getting a new tattoo. It is quite possible that people who already have a tattoo are infected with HCV. The symptoms of Hepatitis C are not visible in the initial days. Only mild symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea etc. show up. Therefore, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not you have developed Hepatitis C.
How to know whether you are infected with HCV or not?
People who have donated blood or have tattoos are at greater risk of developing Hepatitis C. That’s why it becomes imperative to get yourself tested for HCV. A test called HCV Antibody Test is generally recommended by the healthcare professionals for the same purpose. If you are diagnosed with HCV, you must go to a liver specialist as early as possible.
Types of HCV
There are two types of HCV:
1. Acute HCV: It causes abdominal discomfort, fatigue, nausea and fever.
2. Chronic HCV: It may lead to serious health complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Antiviral medication is used to cure HCV of both types. An important point to note here is that even if you get cured, do not assume that you will become immune to HCV. Therefore, you always need to be careful while getting a new tattoo or donating blood.
If you like tattoos and want to get one, you can surely go for it. Just keep in mind the things we have explained above and rest assured.