Infected Tattoo

What is Infected Tattoo?

Many people who have had a new tattoo do not always think that they could develop complications like an infection – however, this can happen. It is important to know what to expect from a tattoo and if there are complications, what you should do. While you may be happy and excited following a tattoo, always be careful and follow the after-tattoo instructions and home care tips. Sometimes, a tattoo healing may not go as you may think and you have to deal with an infection.

Infected Tattoo

After getting the tattoo, the area is large and open wound, which means that you may be susceptible to bacteria and germs during that time you are healing. Until the skin has closed and healed properly, you should take the necessary steps to ensure the wound heals properly and there is a permanent outer protective skin layer that has covered the tattooed area. When germs and bacteria enter the wound, the body’s immune system may not be able to counter the damage or the death of the surrounding tissue. The damage you see on the tissue is what may be referred to as an infection. 1,2

In most of the times, an infection will remain localized and minor only affecting the area that has received the tattoo. Such small infections will usually heal on their own within a couple of days or weeks. However, at times, the infections may become serious and may spread further from the tattooed area. If the infection is left untreated, it could result in complications such as blood poisoning and shock or even failure or death of organ like the skin.

Causes of a Tattoo Infection

Unsanitary tattooing

The studio, shop, or salon where you get your tattoo should ensure that the procedure is done is a clean and decontaminated environment. If you receive your tattoo procedure from an area that is dirty and contaminated, you could develop an infection thereafter. Also, if the procedure is done using unsterilized needles and ink pots, it may also lead to an infection.

Improper cleaning

Just like you need to get your tattooing done in a clean, decontaminated environment, so should you have the wound cleaned properly. Once you have left the studio, you will need to look after the wound properly. You should keep the area clean by washing it at least two times in a day. If you don’t clean the tattoo, you may expose it to bacteria that could result in an infection. You may want to clean the tattoo using gentle antibacterial soap along with lukewarm water.

No proper aftercare

Any qualified tattoo artist will give their customer a sheet that contains instructions on how to care for the skin. Sometimes, you may not get this kind of information and if you don’t know what to do, you may find that the healing process is compromised. The aftercare instructions should properly be relayed to the person who has had the tattoo to ensure that it heals properly and no complications arise.

Re-wrapping the tattoo

You may attempt to re-wrap the tattoo at home and this is something that is highly discouraged. If you need the tattooed skin re-wrapped, you can only do that by visiting the artist who did it at first. This is because there are many things that could happen when you are re-wrapping.

For example, you may not meet the sterilization or cleanliness procedures that are needed when wrapping the wound. There may be bacteria on or around the wound and when you attempt wrapping it without proper cleaning and sterilization procedures, you may encourage an infection.

Scratching the tattoo

Just like pulling the scabs off, scratching your tattoo could result in an infection. When you scratch or pull the scabs off, it could lead to things like bleeding or heavier scabbing. It may also result in uneven scarring. In an attempt to scratch the wound, it may result in transfer of bacteria that are present underneath the fingernails. When this happens, you will likely have an infection on the open wound. You may want to prevent the itching of tattoo so that you don’t scratch it.

Other causes of tattoo infection may include:

  • Bathing in unclean or dirty water
  • Letting people touch the tattoo
  • Using a lot of lotion
  • Not weighing your medical status before having the tattoo. 1,2,3,4

Signs & Symptoms of Tattoo Infection

It is important you know what the signs and symptoms that show an infected tattoo are so that you take proper actions to prevent further complications from arising. The symptoms and signs of an infected tattoo will vary depending on many things, for example:

  • The type of bacteria that may be causing the infection
  • The size of the wound
  • The location of infection
  • The body’s ability to respond to the infection.

Among the common physical or visual symptoms that show an infected tattoo include:

Extreme pain

While all tattoo will have some pain, especially in the first few days, however, if the pain is just too much, this could indicate an infection. If you find that after 7 to 10 days of healing, the tattoo is still very painful or worsening, it could mean there is an infection.


A rash occurring on tattoo may mean some mild irritation, however, if it continues to get worse or becomes larger and itchy, it may mean an infection.

Extreme itching

You will most likely experience itching during the time the tattoo is healing, however, when itching does not subside and it keeps on occurring, it could mean you have been infected with bacteria.

Other signs of infected tattoo include:

  • A wound that is too hot to touch
  • Extreme redness
  • Swelling
  • Unusual scabbing
  • Blistering
  • Oozing boils
  • Pimples that discharge
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Foul odor
  • Red streaking
  • High fever or extreme tiredness
  • Swollen lymph nodes 1,2,3,4

Treatment of Infected Tattoo

Having minor rashes and bumps is something that can be managed at home with use of remedies such as proper cleaning, rest, and antibacterial ointment. However, if the infection is serious, you may need to see a doctor. The doctor may take sample of the tissue using biopsy procedure to determine the kind of bacteria or virus that may be causing the infection. Depending on the cause of the infection a doctor will prescribe the right medication.

  • Antibiotics may be administered if the infection is caused by bacteria. Sometimes, a patient may have persistent, itchy, and painful bumps occurring on the tattoo and this could be a sign that you have mycobacterial infection. If there is a mycobacterial infection, it may require a doctor to administer long term use of antibiotics in order to treat the complication.
  • If the infection has been caused by MRSA bacteria, the use of antibiotics may not help. With MRSA bacteria, it may cause something like an abscess requiring your doctor to drain it rather than using an antibiotic.
  • You may use anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin if the tattoo is too much swollen so that you reduce the swelling. However, if you are experiencing excessive bleeding, aspirin may complicate that because it is a blood thinner.
  • In the event that the tattoo is sore and painful, you may take painkiller to get rid of the pain. 1,2,3


Infected Tattoo on leg

Tattoo infection symptoms signs

tattoo infection pictures

Infected Tattoo pics

infected tattoo pics 9

Infected Tattoo Photos

Infected tattoo on foot

Infected Tattoo Images

Reference List

  1. Tattoo Infections – How To Spot & Treat An Infected Tattoo.
  2. Tattoo Infection: Tips for Identification and Treatment.
  3. Is My New Tattoo Infected? What Should I Do about it?
  4. Infected Tattoo.

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