Tattoos & Diabetes

My arm with a tattoo

Crisis: Danger – Opportunity

I know that this is going to completely shatter whatever “mental image” you may have of me. Yes folks, that is a tattoo, and yes, that is really my arm.

I’m big on symbols. Certain images convey to me a million messages with one quick glance. This particular symbol has been a part of my mental arsenal for a long time – in fact an early post on this blog, back in December of 2004 (wow!) covered some of the feelings this symbol evokes for me. I am an optimist, probably to a fault – even through my rough periods, I know that there is some purpose to it.

I had it done a few months ago, but had been thinking about it for a long time. Earlier in the summer, Amy Tenderich of Diabetes Mine authored a piece over at dlife called “Tattoos and Piercings: Does Body Art Jibe with the Big D?“.

The timing of her article was uncanny. I had been to the tattoo parlor myself not even a week or two earlier. I was so excited that I had to e-mail her right away! I had intended on posting something about it here, but wanted to let it heal up some more.

Amy posted a follow up to that article today, and I thought now might be a good time for it.

My experience was a good one. It was uncomfortable to get done, but I attribute that to having it done on a sensitive place. It was sore for a couple of days, but proceeded to heal normally over the next 2 to 3 weeks. It was probably a complete month before it was 100% healed. I’m not sure if that is longer than typical, but I’m wouldn’t be surprised if it takes me longer to heal up after 26+ years of the big D.

So, there it is. I’m on the record as a long-term type 1 diabetic with a successful tattooing experience. I wish I could have found more of this when I was researching the subject.

I enjoy my tattoo, and the symbol is powerful to me.

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19 thoughts on “Tattoos & Diabetes

  1. this may sound strange, but i am very glad i was given the chance to live with type 1 diabetes for 28 years and counting. this “illness” has made me a very strong person. i have lots (39+ hours) of tattos (1 has been in savage mag.) and all have healed very well. i’ve been looking for a diabetes tattoo for some time and have not found any i wanted for life, but am still looking. i am a very special person because i have diabetes…..the glass is half full.

  2. i tattooed a 56 year old diabetic woman on her ankle. big mistake! it took her 6 months to heal completely. my work normally takes just over a week. theres so little bloodflow to her feet, it may never heal completely (this is noticable by shineyness, slightly different texture, milkiness in the colour), and it may lead to an amputation in years to come.

  3. I was wondering the same thing that crazehana asked what is the proper symbol for diabetic?I’ve had diabetes since I was 11.Its been a real struggle for me this past year.I honestly didn’t think I would make it through this year and I did.Thats why i wanted something to show that I have diabetes and diabetes dont have me.I have two tatts already but this one would really mean alot to me..So please give me some ideas.So get back at me.My email is [email protected]..Thanks!

  4. Hi…i was diagnosed with type 1 duabetes a month ago tomoro…on my 16th burthday :O … it hapened after i was really thirsty and i had lost 2KG in mucsle loss and decided to go the doctors where she reffered me to the hospital that blood sugar level that night was 29.5 *shock* … anyway it has only been nearly a month and so far i am coping with it quite well…when i saw the doctor she told me that i wouldnt have to go through this alone there would nurses, dietricians ect to help me…which was trua…until i didnt have to go to the hospital for check ups any more as i was allowed to inject my own insulin at home…however the diabetic nurse who comes to visit has said she will come n hasnt arrived twice … although everything is going fine i now no do feel like i have to go through this alone as my parents and family dont really know much about it as im the only one in the family ot have it.
    Also i find it anoying how people always ask me ‘are you okay?’. i mean if i wasnt i would tell them…its just nice to let it sit at the back of your mind sometimes without being reminded of it…
    Oh i’m Hannah by the way lol from England…
    i just saw this tattoo and it looks really good…im looking at getting a tattoo as i dont really were bracelets so getting a braclet with a diabetic sign on wouldnt really appeal to me…and so far i have failed to find one except for ordering off line…
    i was just wondering what the proper sign is for diabetes? so maybe i could get it tattooed onto my wrist or something? also there is a symbol of health like a pole with 2 snakes around it? if i was to use that as a tattoo would i also have to have something that said i was diabetic?
    anyway i’ve blabbered on enough lol
    would be good to hear from you.

    [email protected]

  5. Nice work fella!
    Also with type1 ‘betes, I’ve been toying with the idea of having a medical alert tat on my wrist before setting off backpacking for 6 months, your story helps as a confidence builder, but I still struggle to see myself sat in front of a meathead, with tats from toe to tits, poised with an ink filled needle primed and ready to rock!


  6. I have 3 tattoos and have been dying to get another. I noticed that they healed a little slower then my friends but I am much slower then most in almost everything!

    Congrats dude, it looks sweet!

  7. I like it-its really unique.I wouldn’t be able to do it,(its not a pain issue, its just who might eventually find out + get mad..)
    Great success story.

  8. Scott,
    I just posted something to my blog about a diabetic. If you and your commentators have a chance, look at The Combat Philosopher for the post about a guy called Martin. I found your site by searching. However, I’d love to know whether Martin’s situation is unique, or not. It sounds like it really sucks.

    The CP

  9. I like that tattoo. I like what it means for you – IMO, that’s the best reason to get a tattoo. They should mean something and not be done just to follow the herd.

    I want to get one but I’m afraid it’s going to hurt and I’m a big wuss.

  10. I have a couple of Tats to. And I have told my kids that when they turn 16 i will sign and pay for them to get a medical alert type of Tattoo on thier wrists. So that i never have to worry about a car accident and them “forgetting” to wear thier medical alert jewelry. I am also getting a diabetes awareness ribbon tattooed over my heart. I think as long as you take care of it and try to keep numbers fairly good there should be no problem geting INKED.

  11. I have 3 tattoos. Mine took the same amount of time as my boyfriend’s to heal.

    I love your tattoo, and ouch that is a sensitive place.



  12. It must be a Minnesota thing!!!
    I will not write about mine until I can get a decent picture uploaded, except to say that it was 12 years ago and I never had any problems and it still looks beautiful.

  13. It looks great! I’d love to get a tat sometime, but I’m a real sissy when it comes to pain, even though I can poke needles into myself all day without so much as a whimper or a complaint.

  14. I enjoy the choice with your tattoo, I am glad you have chosen such a powerful and connected symbol….I have a good friend that chose to tattoo the word “Diabetic” in the same place – he did it to replace a medic alert bracelet. That was creative – but yours is miles above! Cheers.

  15. Sooo COOL ! I was thinking of getting one a while back with the chinese symbol for happiness.. but I was afraid of infections… Awsome Scott 🙂

  16. Congratulations on making the decision to get a tattoo that inspires and motivates you. I used to work a bit as a henna artist (see pics here), and the emotion that people experienced by getting symbols that meant something profound to them marked onto thier skin was a wonderful thing to witness. It’s very empowering.

    I’d also like to say to people hesitant, for medical or other reasons, to get a real tattoo, henna’s a good sub 🙂