Never say never...even when it comes to getting a tattoo. In a new trend, some people are getting tattoos with a greater purpose than honoring their latest love interest or mother—they're sporting tattoos identifying that they have a dangerous medical condition in order to boost likelihood they'll get the right treatment in a life-threatening emergency.

"Like it or not, this is something people are doing," diabetes expert Saleh Aldasouqi, MD, reported at the recent annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. It's better for doctors to be in on the plan, he pointed out, so they can help patients get their "tats" done safely.

Why Do It?

This idea makes a strange sort of sense, especially for people with life-threatening problems such as severe allergies or diabetes. Dr. Aldasouqi said he has a patient who got a medical tattoo because the medical alert bracelets he'd worn for years often broke. Others are concerned about problems that might make it impossible to communicate in an emergency.

Dr. Aldasougi said that he has seen some tattoos that are quite attractive. Some people choose the six-point asterisk-like Star of Life symbol that is the universal medical logo for emergency medical services, along with information identifying their condition such as "diabetes," "steroid dependency" or "allergic to penicillin."

Safe Tattooing

If you are interested in getting a medical tattoo, check with your local city, county or state health department for licensing and regulations for tattoo parlors. You can also learn more at bodyart. When and if you do so, keep in mind that this is a situation in which you should also pay attention to the special precautions people with chronic medical problems need to follow anyway-for instance, if you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is well-controlled to avoid problems with healing and local infections. Dr. Aldasouqi suggested that an ideal location for a medical tattoo is on the right wrist, since emergency personnel are trained to check a patient's pulse there.

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