Living with diabetes: Body piercings and tattoos

Updated On Jan 12, 2022

Common risks of body piercing

1. Infection
The pierced part of the body can become infected if the area is not clean or proper hygiene is not maintained. Know the risk factors – an infection could lead to gangrene, and even an amputated limb.

Diabetes can cause a variety of skin infections including:

  • Infections of the eyelids (sties)
  • Boils and carbuncles (infection of tissues under the skin)
  • The infection of hair follicles (folliculitis)
  • Fungi that infect the nail beds of fingers and toes (Candida albicans, or yeast)
  • Infections caused by Staphylococcus
  • A yeast infection that forms in the folds of skin where moisture lies (jock itch in men) or on the feet (athlete’s foot)
  • Ringworm (fungus that causes an itchy, ring-shaped patch of skin)
  • Irritation caused by dry skin from diabetes, dehydration from high blood sugars, or poor circulation (if due to circulation, itching can affect the lower extremities)
  • Yeast infections inside and outside the vaginal cavity in women
  • The mucous membranes of the mouth and skin are infected with yeast (corners of the mouth are dry, cracked)

2. Period to heal
Your piercing may take longer to heal if your blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, which could put you at risk of infection. The healing process of a tattoo or body piercing can take two or three times as long for people with diabetes. Piercings may take much longer to heal if they are extremely invasive, such as large piercing bars.

3. Bleeding
Excess bleeding is a risk of the procedure, especially in parts of the body with

4. Scarring
You may develop scarring as a result of your piercing, or you may develop a keloid (a type of oversized scar)

5. Stress
Body piercings and tattoos can be painful. Stress is bad for the body, and it raises blood sugar levels. It will be temporary and usually will go away within a day, but if blood sugar levels were high prior to entering the tattoo parlor or piercing facility, they might rise dangerously during the procedure.

In this case, you should drink a lot of water, carry your insulin if you need to take extra doses for high blood sugar, and always carry your glucometer and supplies. Bring them with you to the facility. Re-educate your tattoo or body piercing professional about the signs and symptoms of low and high blood sugar in case they need a refresher.

If you do decide to get body piercings…
1. You should have your blood sugar levels controlled before getting a tattoo or body piercing
A person with diabetes who is considering getting a tattoo or body piercing should make sure their HbA1c is within their target range, which is usually less than 7%. You can rest assure that your HbA1c will be low enough if you manage to keep your blood sugars in a target range every day, or at least on most days. Nevertheless, you should always consult your healthcare provider before getting either a tattoo or body piercing.

2. Make sure you see a licensed or accredited person and place
Make sure to choose a licensed and professional body piercer and to inform them about your condition so that they can tailor the procedure and aftercare tips to your needs. When you check the rating of tattoo parlors and body piercing facilities, you can be sure that they follow safe practices when preforming the procedure. In addition to being trained, they know the state’s guidelines for tattoos and body piercings.

3. Being honest about your diabetes to those in charge
When you visit a facility for a procedure, you will often be given a consent form releasing the tattoo parlor or piercing establishment from any problems you may have related to getting tattooed or pierced in the after-care phase. On this form, you will be asked if you have diabetes and if it is well-controlled. Being honest is important.

You should inform the tattoo artist if you have diabetes so that they can adjust your aftercare to prevent infection. Tattoo artists and body piercers who are licensed are trained to understand diabetes and the risk of infection.

Discuss low and high blood sugar symptoms before the procedure. You should discuss low blood sugar with the tattoo parlour owner or the person who tattoos you, or with the body piercing professional. Educate them about the signs and symptoms, and have your glucometer and supplies nearby, along with any medication, if needed. You should also carry a 15-g carbohydrate option.

4. Ensure the parlor takes hygiene seriously
Ensure that sterility in the procedure is ensured to keep you safe from infections and problems after the tattooing or piercing procedure. You should research the company’s reputation, hygiene and safety practices and its reputation to reduce the risk of problems arising from piercing or tattoo application.

Some further advice…
Avoid areas with poor circulation such as:

  • Ankles
  • Shins
  • Buttocks
  • Or favoured areas for insulin injections/shots (arms, abdomen and thighs)
  • Feet

You should not get either procedure if you have any type of diabetic skin condition, or if you have breaks in your skin near the area where you plan to get the tattoo or piercing.

Post-piercing tips
It’s critical to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly (at least once a day) and/or stick to your usual insulin plan post-piercing. You must also keep the pierced part of your skin clean and covered while it heals.

If you feel unwell after your tattoo is completed or notice any signs of infection, you should contact your doctor or diabetes healthcare team.