Can People with Diabetes Get Tattoos and Piercings? What to Know Before You Go

It’s always fun to tattoo words, images, or symbols that mean something to you and your life; it forms a part of your identity. It can be hard if you really want to get inked but are stopped by the fear of what implications your diabetes will have after such a procedure.

If you have diabetes and are wondering how to go about the process of getting a tattoo or a piercing, this article will guide you through some essential steps and precautions you need to take before making a decision.

Why Think Twice Before Getting Tattoos/Piercings If You Have Diabetes?

Diabetes doesn’t merely affect your blood glucose levels. It wreaks havoc in many other ways, wound healing being an important and very troublesome area. If your blood sugar levels are not well managed, your immune system function is also compromised.

White blood cell production is affected and this in turn affects your body’s ability to fight off bacteria, and heal wounds. Unhealed wounds, in turn, can cause bacteria to penetrate below the dermis, and even enter the bone or muscles i.e., osteomyelitis or the steam causing septicaemia and other fatalities.

Amputations due to gangrene i.e., tissue death are also very common, particularly due to foot ulcers. Even considering that the infection does not spread, the wound will heal very slowly impairing your quality of life and ability to do several day-to-day functions due to the pain.

This may be augmented by poor blood circulation, another side-effect of uncontrolled diabetes that limits the body’s ability to deliver nutrients and lymphocytes to the area of injury and aid in healing.

Diabetes affects collagen production, causing difficulties in skin maintenance, and also weakens your skin barrier rendering injuries more likely. Diabetes also hinders new blood vessel production and the repair of damaged vessels.

This is why injuries may cause potentially life-threatening complications in people with diabetes if they are not attended to in terms of emergency care. It can also become fatal if the wound isn't managed properly.

Steps To Follow Before Getting a Tattoo/Piercing If You Have Diabetes

Consult your Doctor

Everyone experiences diabetes differently. And although there may be different thresholds that are used to determine susceptibility to infection, each individual will have a specific reaction that your healthcare professional will know thoroughly. Take their consent before embarking on any tattoos or piercings.

Check your A1C Levels

Your hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test reveals how much sugar has attached to the hemoglobin protein in your red blood cells. The test is a measure of blood sugar levels over the past three months and the percentage of red blood cells that have sugar-coated hemoglobin. The higher the level, the worse your diabetes is.

Ideally, the level should be less than 7, which suggests you are managing your blood glucose levels well. In cases where the level is below 7, mostly your doctor will allow you to get a tattoo as the chances of quicker healing are greater and the possibility of infection is lower.

However, just this measure does not guarantee anything – for people with lower levels who are susceptible to infections or neuropathy, your doctor will not give you the go-ahead, whereas people who have a relatively lower risk but a level slightly higher than 7 may get clearance.

Pick a Safe Facility

If you get the go-ahead, you need to carefully consider which area of your body you are getting inked. Avoid the areas that are vulnerable to getting infected such as the feet, shins, ankles, and lower legs as these areas are prone to lower blood circulation, very slow healing, neuropathy, and related complications.

Avoid areas like the buttocks, thighs, arms, and stomach because these are the areas where insulin is normally injected. A tattoo would cover up the area giving less visualization of any developing infections, and if you use flash glucose monitoring devices in these areas tattoos and piercings will mess up readings or give incorrect readings.

Go to a Licensed Parlour

You must ensure that the tattoo or piercing parlor you choose has good reviews and is safe, hygienic, and follows all the right health practices in terms of equipment, training, personnel, and procedures.

All their equipment must be sanitized, not to mention the staff must wear gloves at all times and their needles must be sterile. Also, check with your local state or county records to ensure that the particular parlor has not had any recalls of contaminated ink.

Make Your Condition Clear

After choosing a reputable place, make the staff aware of the fact that you suffer from diabetes. This way your tattoo artist or piercing professional will know to give you regular breaks.

The process of getting a piercing or tattoo is long and painful – even if you feel it's easy, the process tends to take a toll on your body, because it is penetrating skin. This can cause a spike in your blood sugar levels.

So will have to take a break or several breaks, to relax and catch your breath, monitor your blood sugar levels periodically, and finally, carry and eat fast-acting carb snacks in case of a hypoglycaemic episode. Some good options are fruit juices, candy, and biscuits.

Post-Tattoo/Piercing Management and Care

First off, speak to your tattoo artist or piercing professional on what to expect during recovery in terms of bleeding, crusting, and other signs, so you know can identify any problems that arise during the healing process and consult your doctor immediately.

Keeping the tattooed area or piercing area clean and dry, apart from moisturizing it as per the tattoo expert’s instructions. Usually, antibacterial ointments or Vaseline petroleum jelly are used to protect and restore skin health.


Don’t let diabetes hold you back from expressing yourself to the fullest. Be cautious and consult a physician if you have symptoms of infections such as rashes, pus, pain, or a fever.

Not only can a tattoo be harmless for diabetics, but nowadays they are also replacing medical bracelets as medical symbols to alert people of your diabetic status in an emergency!

Updated on: 13-Apr-2023


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