Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland) 2017 02 07() doi 10.1159/000453315
Sarcoidosis is, from historical data, suggested to be more prevalent among patients with tattoo reactions. We aimed to evaluate this association in a systematic study.
This is a consecutive study of patients with tattoo complications, diagnosed in the "Tattoo Clinic" at Bispebjerg University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 2008 to 2015, based on clinical assessment and histology. From the overall group of 494 tattoo complications in 406 patients, 92 reactions in 72 patients showed a papulo-nodular pattern studied for local and systemic sarcoidosis, since sarcoidosis is expected to be nodular.
Of the 92 reactions with a papulo-nodular pattern, 27 (29%) reactions in 19 patients were diagnosed as cutaneous or systemic sarcoidosis, supported by histology; 65 (71%) were diagnosed as non-sarcoidosis due to histology and no clinical sarcoid manifestations. "Rush phenomenon" with concomitant reaction in many other black tattoos, triggered by a recent tattoo with a papulo-nodular reaction, was observed in 70% in the sarcoidosis group and 28% in the non-sarcoidosis group, indicating a predisposing factor which may be autoimmune and linked with sarcoidosis. Agglomerates of black pigment forming foreign bodies may in the predisposed individual trigger widespread reaction in the skin and internal organs.
Black tattoos with papulo-nodular reactions should be seen as markers of sarcoidosis. Papulo-nodular reactions may, as triggers, induce widespread reactions in other black tattoos – a "rush phenomenon" – depending on individual predisposition. Sarcoidosis is estimated to be 500-fold increased in papulo-nodular reactions compared to the prevalence in the general population, and the association with black tattoos is strong.