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Tattoo or not to Tattoo?


Those of us who live with lymphoedema are cautioned against any invasive procedures to our affected limbs. We are advised that blood pressure readings, blood tests, injections, IVS or anything that might break the skin or put pressure on the affected limb may cause infection or further damage to our lymphatic system.


A question that is asked from time to time by our Support Group members.  “Can I have a tattoo?”  The reason behind the caution of this question is that, as lymphoedema patients we are told that we should not have any procedure that might break the skin and cause an infection such as cellulitis or sepsis.


Feelings among our members are mixed, several members have had tattoos prior to a lymphoedema diagnosis but would be strongly against having one since being diagnosed, especially on their affected side. Mid-January 2022 a poll was conducted amongst our members with a simple question “Your thoughts on Tattoos”. The poll had a straightforward ‘Yes or No’ answer and members comments were added in the post.  Ninety-nine members took part, sixty-eight members said they would not have tattoos and thirty-one members said they would.  

To Tattoo or not? Living with lymphoedema.

What are the risks of having a Tattoo?


Members who took part in the above poll where assured that there was no judgement and the poster below expresses some of our members thoughts.

Image members thoughts on having a tattoo.


From experience I know our members want to have a personal choice as to whether they have a tattoo or not, but please do research the Tattooist, understand the risks that a tattoo may do to your lymphoedema and already compromised lymphatic system. Please tell your Tattooist that you have lymphoedema.

If you are having a tattoo, think about the potential risks:


Allergic Reaction

Blood borne diseases

MRI Complications

  • Remember that tattoos are drawn with a needle or multiple needles. 

  • Question whether the needles are sterile.

  • Are needles in sealed packaging or sterile surface tray?

  • Is the tattoo parlour clean? 

  • The dye may go into the lymph nodes and stays there, this could add stress to the lymphatic system.

  • If the limb or the area you have your tattoo swells, then artwork may become distorted, and you may not like what you see.

  • If you decide to have the tattoo removed through laser treatment this could further damage the tissues of an already compromised lymphatic system.

  • Laser removal is expensive and may need several visits to have a tattoo removed.


Those members who had a tattoo after cancer treatment often saw this as an act of defiance that they had survived cancer

Tattoo Aftercare


MRI Complications - If you are having an MRI do make sure the medical staff know as some tattoos may have traces of metal. For more information see MRI FAQs NHS

Further reading:

Lymph Notes

The Lymphie Life

Tattoo & Piercing Industry Union (UK)

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