Wednesday, October 27

Erasing a tattoo with a laser, what risks does it entail?


In theory, permanent tattoos are permanent, “forever.” At least all that “forever” can mean in a person’s life. However, for a while this has also changed, and removing tattoos is a real possibility.

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Of course, beyond the procedures that – by means of laser technology – allow these drawings to be removed from the skin, it is advisable to think very well before deciding to get a tattoo. Because of the various risks that it entails put ink into the body and also because erasing a tattoo is still much more expensive than doing it.

Beyond that economic cost, does it involve health risks to erase a tattoo with a laser? Yes, although not very frequent or very serious, as long as the necessary measures are taken to prevent side effects. Therefore, it is important to know the care that must be taken to avoid unwanted consequences.

How to erase a tattoo and how difficult it is

There are several different forms of laser to remove tattoos. In essence, they all consist of a ray of light that fragments the ink particles lodged in the skin. Particles that are large enough that the immune system cannot remove them.

The task of the laser is micro-spray those ink particles. Being smaller, they can be eliminated by macrophages, white blood cells that – in addition to destroying microorganisms present in the blood – extract dead cells. That is, they “clean” the body.

But tattoos are not all the same: some are more difficult to erase What others. This difficulty depends on several factors, among which are the color of the ink, the age of the tattoo, the area of ​​the body where it is and the quality with which it has been made.

The dark colors are usually, curiously, the easiest to remove, while the most difficult are the white and yellow tones. The old tattoos They are also easier to remove than recent ones, since they have been attacked for longer – at least partially – by the aforementioned macrophages.

It is more difficult, on the other hand, to erase tattoos from areas of the body where blood circulation is less: those with thinner skin and further from the heart. That is why, for example, the ink on the skin of the ankles is one of the most difficult to remove.

And it is also more difficult to remove the “more professional” tattoos, which generally penetrate up to deeper layers of the skin and they are more saturated with ink than those made by amateurs.

Based on these factors, number of sessions varies necessary to erase a tattoo completely, which can range from two to a dozen, as reported by the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV).

The duration of the entire process depends, of course, on this: between each session and the next, between four and six weeks are usually necessary, and sometimes even little more. And also the total cost, of course, since each session costs, on average, between 200 and 400 euros.

Side effects, risks and necessary care

What happens in some cases when removing a tattoo is a change in skin pigmentation, which in this area can become darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation). The latter is more likely in people with darker skin.

These variations occur because, on occasions, laser affects melanin -the natural substance that gives color to the skin- in the affected area. But it is temporary: in general, the problem corrects itself and, between six months and a year after treatment, it has disappeared.

After each session, they may also appear blisters, swelling, stinging, bleeding points or redness of the skin. The specialist in charge of the procedure must indicate an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory cream to apply in the following days, which will help avoid -or alleviate- these side effects.

In any case, the blisters will dry up to crusts, which take up to a couple of weeks to heal. It’s fundamental do not touch or scratch, and especially avoid the use of sponges, rough towels or other textile fabrics that could affect the sensitized area, which should be washed with neutral soap.

The possible consequences of not respecting this care are more serious: from infections to scars and permanent changes in skin texture. It is key to endure these temporary discomforts to prevent worse evils.

In addition to the effects already mentioned, sometimes the area hurts a little after the application of the laser. Usually it is a pain not very severe, tolerable. If it is very annoying, it can be mitigated by applying cold, which also helps reduce possible swelling of the affected area.

It is common, especially after the first laser sessions, that the image of the tattoo becomes blurred and enlarged. This is normal, as a consequence of the aforementioned spraying of the ink particles. It’s about a necessary step towards its final elimination.

Another important care that should be taken is not to expose the skin of the tattoo to the rays of the sun. That is why the most convenient months to perform this treatment are those of autumn and winter. The current one, in fact, is a suitable time to initiate or plan a procedure of this type.

Rare but Possible Major Risks

For the rest, it must be taken into account that the laser technique is effective and safe, but “its application requires a significant learning curve to minimize side effects”, As he explains in a Article Dr. Petra María Vega López, president of the Spanish Society of Aesthetic Medicine (SEME).

The use of non-approved laser equipment or the lack of training on the part of those who use them “has meant that in recent times patients with major burns by this type of lasers ”, adds Vega López.

The first preventive measure, therefore, consists of taking the procedure of erasing a tattoo very seriously and going for this purpose to a trusted institution, that offers security guarantees.

On the other hand, as he explains Adriana Ribé, an expert doctor in dermatopathology, during the laser session also an allergic reaction could occur, because the procedure consists of “fragmenting an ink that is going to be running through the body and in the area”.

The risk of this allergic reaction becoming serious (it could even lead to a anaphylactic shock) also makes it important to perform this procedure in a medical center, which has the presence of specialists who can assist the patient if necessary.

These possibilities, as has been pointed out, are rare, but one should always try to minimize the risk factors, not avoid regretting later for greater evils.

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