6 Tattooing Tips for People With Type 1

I wanted to get a tattoo, but people discouraged me from doing it because of my Type 1 diabetes. The naysayers told me that we didn’t heal well enough, that we got infections too easily, that there was just too much risk.

But then I began noticing people with diabetes-related tattoos. Some people were getting them on their wrists in place of MedicAlert bracelets. Others were getting more elaborate tattoos on other parts of their bodies. I learned about Darren Brass, a Miami tattoo artist with Type 1 diabetes. I read in Diabetes Mine about a columnist’s tattoo. Apparently we could get inked.

Of course, as with everything in life, people with diabetes have some additional things to think about when it comes to tattoos. There are risks involved, as a tattoo is an open wound. Some people with diabetes heal slower than others, making the open wound more prone for infection. Many of us also deal with poor circulation, making tattoos on areas furthest from the heart a little more risky.

After doing my research, I decided to get a diabetes-related tattoo of my own. At first I thought it would be a great idea to get a MedicAlert tattoo. But as I thought about it more, I decided a more elaborate diabetes-related tattoo would be a way to own my diabetes. No hiding, no ignoring, no running away, it would be a constant reminder to me.

This is what I did to make sure my first tattoo went smoothly:

-Made sure my A1C score was less than 7.0.
-Made sure my 14-day blood sugar average was below 140 mg/dL.
-Got my doctor’s approval before going under the pen.
-Made sure I picked the right artist, one who had a good reputation and a clean parlor.
-Brought a snack and checked my blood sugar at least once during the tattoo session.
-Followed my artist’s post-tattoo care instructions to the letter.

I now am the proud owner of a vibrant diabetes tattoo that is a play off the Rod of Asclepius (snake and staff) health care symbol. To get a look at other diabetes tattoo possibilities, you can check out my Tumblr and Facebook pages.

The decision to get ink done is entirely a personal one, but diabetes shouldn’t stop you cold from considering it.

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Chris Clement is the creator of Diabetic Ink and Social Media Manager at Diabetic Connect. He is passionate about diabetes education, patient empowerment, and connecting with peers in the diabetes online community. When the laptop is closed you can find him in Salt Lake City writing/recording music, longboarding, or goofing off with his wife and daughters.

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