THURSDAY, May 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Getting a tattoo may put you at risk for long-term skin problems, a new study warns.
"We were rather alarmed at the high rate of reported chronic complications tied to getting a tattoo," said senior investigator Dr. Marie Leger, an assistant professor in the dermatology department at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"Given the growing popularity of tattoos, physicians, public health officials and consumers need to be aware of the risks involved," Leger said in a Langone news release.
For the study, researchers surveyed about 300 New York City adults, aged 18 to 69, with tattoos. Most of them had no more than five tattoos, and the arm was the most popular tattoo site (67 percent).
Up to 6 percent of the study participants experienced some form of tattoo-related rash, infection, severe itching or swelling that sometimes lasted longer than four months. In some cases, the problems persisted for years, according to the investigators.
Some tattoo-related skin problems can be treated with anti-inflammatory steroid drugs, but others may require laser surgery, Leger said.
The chemicals used in tattoo ink are not standardized or properly regulated, she said.
"It is not yet known if the reactions being observed are due to chemicals in the ink itself or to other chemicals, such as preservatives or brighteners, added to them, or to the chemicals' breakdown over time. The lack of a national database or reporting requirements also hinders reliable monitoring," Leger said.
The study was published online May 27 in the journal Contact Dermatitis.
About one in five adult Americans has at least one tattoo, according to the study authors.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about tattoos.