Tattoos and hepatitis C

As a result of the reuse of unsterilized needles that may still contain the blood of a previous client, tattoo artists are at risk of contracting hepatitis C. Ink pots may also contain blood if tattoo artists do not use new ones.

It is still possible to spread hepatitis C even if the blood is not visible on the equipment. Several studies from 2013 suggest that HCV can remain infectious for up to 6 weeks outside the body and on surfaces.

You should only go to a licensed tattoo parlor if you want to reduce the risk of HCV transmission. States have different laws regarding tattoos. A tattoo artist must ensure a safe and hygienic environment by:

  • Throughout the process, wear gloves
  • Sterilized needles should be used from a separate packet
  • Ink and containers should be new
  • During the procedure, wrap everything they may touch in plastic wrap

Tattoos should not be received if the artist does not follow these hygienic procedures, as it increases the risk of health complications. A person should follow the aftercare advice given by the tattoo artist during the healing process to reduce the risk of infection.

Hepatitis C symptoms

Most people do not experience symptoms of the infection during the acute phase. The onset usually occurs between 2 and 12 weeks after exposure, but it can last up to 6 months. The acute stage is characterized by mild and flu-like symptoms. Trusted Sources may include:

  • tiredness
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • dark urine
  • light-colored stool
  • jaundice

More than half of people with acute hepatitis C do not clear the virus and develop chronic hepatitis C. Most chronic hepatitis C patients do not experience symptoms or feel depressed or fatigued.

Chronic hepatitis C can lead to chronic liver disease and liver cancer if left untreated. Hepatitis C patients tend to develop chronic liver disease slowly over years without many symptoms.

Approximately 5–25% of HCV-infected people develop cirrhosis within 10–20 years. In severe cases, cirrhosis can result in liver failure due to permanent scarring and damage.

When to consult a doctor

If someone has been exposed to HCV, such as during a tattoo, and is experiencing any HCV symptoms, they should see a doctor. The sooner a doctor diagnoses HCV, the earlier treatment can begin to clear the infection and prevent long-term damage.


There is a possibility that people can contract hepatitis C while getting a tattoo, although it is rare. When tattoo artists do not sterilize their equipment and follow appropriate, hygienic measures, this can happen. To ensure a clean and safe tattooing environment, any person wishing to get a tattoo should seek out a licensed professional with a license.

The possibility of receiving a tattoo if a person has an HCV infection exists. People with HCV should, however, seek out tattoo artists who have experience tattooing them. By informing the artist of the infection, they can take extra precautions to avoid complications.


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