Can Black-Ink Tattoos Be An Unwitting Cause Of Uveitis?

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Can Black-Ink Tattoos Be An Unwitting Cause Of Uveitis?

Whoever thought that tattoos could possibly have any negative impact on the eye? But, according to a research from the John Hopkins School Of Medicine, such a thing is not only possible, the link is fast being established as people with black-ink tattoo art on their skin have been found with an eye condition called Uveitis.

Uveitis is a condition where the middle layer of the eye is inflamed (between the retina and the white of the eye). This layer has the iris, and blood vessels that network out to other parts of the eye. Any inflammation of this middle layer can severely affect normal vision and in some cases, even lead to blindness.

The underlying causes of Uveitis are shrouded in mystery. They have been ascribed to viruses, fungi, injuries and infections, but nobody’s quite sure yet. So why link black-ink tattoos (not the colored ones) with the condition?

Until 2014, this suspicion was not widespread among scientists, doctors and researchers. The connection between degenerating eye health and skin art is so tenuous that it is not surprising that few even considered asking a patient about tattoos they may have on their bodies. Then the Wilmer Eye Institute at the John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, under the leadership of Dr. Trucian Ostheimer came upon several cases in less than two years. In all of them, the skin covered by tattoos became hard and raised at the same time that the Uveitis symptoms began to show up. What’s more, the treatment that resolved the eye condition also cleared up the skin symptoms at the same time.

Indisputable proof? Not at all. A lot of research still needs to be conducted before the connection between tattoos and Uveitis is declared as fact. But while that is happening, it is surely of interest to people who are weighing the pros and cons of getting inked.

Meanwhile, Dr Ostheimer encourages the vision care industry to ask patients about tattoos when they’re known to have Uveitis. “It is purely speculative, but I think it is reasonable to conclude that there may be some component of black tattoo ink that acts as an environmental trigger — leading to the development of simultaneous bilateral ocular inflammation and elevation of tattooed skin,” he says.