Reuters Health Information (2003-06-02): Hepatitis C acquired through tattooing often asymptomatic
Hepatitis C acquired through tattooing often asymptomatic
Last Updated: 2003-06-02 16:19:20 -0400 (Reuters Health)
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who become infected with the hepatitis C virus when getting a tattoo may be less likely to develop symptoms than people who become infected in other ways, according to Texas researchers.
In a small study, both people with tattoos and those with a history of injection-drug use were more likely than others to be infected with hepatitis C. But unlike subjects who had injected drugs, individuals who had a tattoo were less likely to develop acute hepatitis symptoms, such as jaundice, vomiting and fatigue.
According to Dr. Robert W. Haley, lead author of the study, a tattoo needle carries a smaller viral load than a standard hypodermic needle and it does not inject the virus directly into the bloodstream.
As a consequence, it takes longer for the virus to enter the bloodstream and make its way to the liver and cause symptoms, Dr. Haley, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, told Reuters Health.
In the study, Dr. Haley and Dr. R. Paul Fischer, from Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas, re-analyzed data collected in the early 1990s on 626 patients seeing a physician for back problems. Patients were asked about risk factors for hepatitis C, and were screened for the virus after the interview.
The findings are published in the May 12th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Researchers found that those who had a tattoo had a 6.5-fold higher risk of testing positive for hepatitis C than other subjects. However, infected subjects with tattoos were not at increased risk for acute hepatitis symptoms compared with their peers without tattoos.
In contrast, people with a history of IV drug use were 7.2-times more likely to be infected with the hepatitis C virus than other subjects and 5.9-times more likely to have experienced acute hepatitis symptoms.
Arch Intern Med 2003;163:1095-1098.