Body art wisdom and advice

dr dave hepburnMelody bopped into the office, her face and other assorted body parts adorned with numerous studs, rings and barbells. Looking like she’d just fallen into a tackle box, she pointed to her chest, which sported TODD 4 EVER encircled by a large red heart. Unhooking her mouth she muttered, “I need to change TODD to TANYA.”

Body art now wallpapers the hides of teens, housewives, and possibly Pope Benedict the whatevereth. Most do not consult a physician before having their body pierced, needled and redesigned, but many consult a physician afterwards. Doctors are increasingly being called upon to either try to remove this “permanent reminder of a temporary insanity” or to treat a nasty complication from the procedure.

While the fashion of the 90s was to get tattooed, the results of those “rash” decisions are now showing up in doctors’ offices. Now that Rex is an ex or the prospective seminarian feels that “Born to Raise Hell” is somewhat of a distraction, tattoo removal is big business ... like Enron is big business. “Sorry Melody, but tattoo removal is difficult, painful, requires several treatments and isn't cheap. Furthermore, laser removal may not only be unsuccessful but can actually make the tattoo darker!” Many unforeseen variables, ranging from the type and color of metal used in the tattoo to the individual’s immune status, can lead to a poor outcome of an attempted tattoo removal. Once you are a marked man, you may well be marked for life. So think twice about Todd’s permanent pectoral presence.

Furthermore, that tattoo of Betty can become an ugly Betty over time, either by fading or as a result of expansion of the canvas. An ill-placed “skull and crossbones” could evolve into Marlon Brando munching on massive drumsticks. Bambi might morph into Bullwinkle while Thumper swells to become a wallaby.

So since you don’t consult us before you head off to the parlor, let me dole out some free advice now.

Try a temporary tattoo first. In fact, possibly try temporaries permanently.

If you must have a name inscribed, make sure it’s your mother’s name. 

Mom will always be Mom. Norman Rockwell’s depiction of a sailor with several girls names crossed out on his deltoid demonstrates a billboard of bad decisions.

Consider the permanence of tattoo, and think twice.

Beware of infection, scarring or reaction to the sun.

Body Piercing
Made popular by the PUNK subculture of the 70s, the body-piercing fad has teens and teen wannabes angling for the tackle box in droves. 

Nostrils, navels and nipples are popular yet painful places to pierce. 

Tongues have become a favorite site, but beware. The tongue is red due to a myriad of blood vessels, something that body piercers pray they don’t hit as they ram a large spike through the tongue. Though painful, swollen tongues commonly result from piercing, on occasion large quantities of blood can leak undetected from the wound and slip dangerously down the gullet. In addition to hemorrhaging, tongue infections can lead to serious complications. These lingual fashion statements also drive dentists to distraction. Acci-dentally biting down on a barbell can fracture and chip teeth.

But it’s not only the tongue in chic. Perforating and puncturing miscellaneous cartilage and skin can also lead to scars, cysts, abscesses and some nasty infections. The dangerous Hepatitis C, for example, is up six times more common in those who sport tattoos prompting some health authorities to recommend that those who have graced a tattoo parlor should also grace a lab. Some of the cheaper kiosks (attractive to money-strapped teens) may not be able to afford good sterilizing equipment and may still use piercing guns which can’t be sterilized.

Body art deco can be infectious, as any stud worth his metal knows.

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