Tattoo-associated uveitis

Trucian A. Ostheimer, Bryn M. Burkholder, Theresa G. Leung, Nicholas J. Butler, James P. Dunn, Jennifer E. Thorne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Purpose To describe the clinical presentation of uveitis with coincident onset of raised and indurated tattooed skin. Design Case series. Methods Seven consecutive patients were evaluated at a tertiary ophthalmologic facility with coincident uveitis and cutaneous tattoo induration over an 18-month period. All subjects underwent complete ophthalmic examination and a focused systemic medical evaluation including serologic testing and imaging studies. Two participants underwent biopsy of their tattoos. The patients' clinical courses and responses to treatment over a follow-up period of 1-20 months are reported (mean follow-up = 9 months). Main outcome measures included degree of intraocular inflammation, ocular complications, visual acuity, clinically observable tattooed skin changes, and biopsy results. Results Five of 7 patients had bilateral nongranulomatous anterior uveitis: 4 with chronic and 1 with recurrent disease. The remaining 2 patients had bilateral chronic granulomatous panuveitis. Biopsies of raised and indurated tattoos were performed in 2 patients and demonstrated noncaseating granulomatous inflammation surrounding tattoo ink in the dermis. The skin changes resolved in all patients, with a faster response noted in those treated with high-dose oral prednisone for intraocular inflammation. Five patients subsequently experienced recurrent flares of intraocular inflammation in conjunction with the recurrence of raised and indurated tattoos. Conclusions These cases represent a subset of patients in whom skin tattooing may have incited an immune response leading to simultaneous inflammation of the eyes and tattooed skin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-643.e1
JournalAmerican journal of ophthalmology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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