Tattoo Infections: Causes, Treatment, Legal Options

Tattoos continue to be popular in the United States. However, there are risks associated with getting a tattoo. According to the FDA, tattoo risks include infection, scarring, allergies, bumps, and MRI complications.

Tattoo infections can be extremely risky because they can cause life-threatening conditions if the infections are not treated properly. There are numerous reasons for tattoo infections, some of which might be the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. 

Types of Tattoo Infections and Causes

There are numerous types of infections a person could develop after getting a tattoo. Staphylococcus, Nontuberculous Mycobacteria, and Streptococcus are three of the most common types of infection people experience after a tattoo. Still, other bacterial and viral infections could develop.

Tattoo infections can be caused by a variety of circumstances including:

  • Contaminated ink
  • Unsterilized tools
  • Failure to practice good hygiene by the tattoo artist (i.e. washing hands, using gloves, using sterilized water, etc.)
  • Failing to maintain clean and sterilized premises
  • Improper aftercare 
  • Using expired tattoo ink
  • Using a DIY tattoo kit
  • Reusing needles, razors, or other equipment
  • Failing to use a disinfectant on the skin before beginning the tattoo

Even though most infections are treatable with antibiotics, some infections may be more difficult to treat. MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) is resistant to some antibiotics. MRSA is also highly contagious.

Infections that enter the bloodstream or internal organs can result in sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can result in permanent impairments, organ failure, and death. 

There are also several conditions that a person could develop because of a tattoo infection. The condition would depend on the type of bacterial or viral infection caused by the tattoo. Some potential conditions which could result from a tattoo infection include cellulitis, syphilis, HIV, herpes, impetigo, viral hepatitis, and viral warts.

Signs and Symptoms of a Tattoo Infection

It is important to follow all instructions for caring for and cleaning the tattoo. It is also essential to know the signs and symptoms of tattoo infections so that you can seek immediate medical care if your tattoo becomes infected.

Symptoms and signs of tattoo infection include:

  • Red bumpy skin 
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Red lesions around the tattooed area
  • Blisters or abscesses 
  • Swelling of the tattooed area
  • Abnormal shivering
  • Foul odor
  • Pus coming out of the tattooed area
  • Aches and pains in muscles, joints, or bones
  • Sores around the tattooed area
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting

If you develop any of the above symptoms or other unexplained symptoms, go to the emergency room immediately. Some infections can spread quickly throughout your body, causing life-threatening conditions.

Seek Medical Treatment for an Infected Tattoo

Even minor tattoo infections can result in catastrophic injuries and traumatic conditions if they are not treated correctly. It is best to see a doctor as soon as you notice any signs of infection from a tattoo. Your doctor may order blood tests to determine the exact bacteria that is causing the infection.

Identifying the bacteria helps the doctor prescribe the best medications for treating the infection. Most infections respond to antibiotics. However, severe infections may require hospitalization to receive IV antibiotics.

Infections could take months to heal, depending on the type of infection and its severity. If complications or conditions develop, repeated doctor’s visits or additional hospitalization may be required. 

When you got your tattoo, the tattoo artist or parlor likely had you sign a waiver and release. You may or may not have read the fine print on the document. Regardless, you are bound by the terms of the release and waiver.

Most standard releases and waivers used by tattoo artists and tattoo parlors state that you will not hold the artist or the establishment liable for any damages or injuries that result from getting the tattoo. In other words, you are stating that you know and understand the risks, and you alone are responsible for any adverse effects caused by getting tattooed. 

Even though a waiver and release is a legally binding agreement, it is not a complete bar to all personal injury claims. Some claims based on gross negligence or intentional misconduct may still be allowed. Examples might include a tattoo artist who reuses dirty needles or knowingly uses contaminated tattoo ink.

An assumed or inherent risk of doing something does not release another party from all liability. However, proving that the tattoo artist’s actions or the tattoo parlor conditions rise to the level of gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing could be challenging. 

A personal injury lawyer can review the case and any documents you signed to determine what legal resource you might have for a tattoo infection. The document you signed might not be legal under Florida law, or there could be other legal causes of action that could result in compensation for your injuries and damages. 

The first step is to seek medical care for your infection. Document the damage caused by the infection through medical records. Then seek legal advice regarding your options for holding the tattoo artist or tattoo establishment liable for the damages caused by a tattoo infection.