DEAR DOCS: I had my wife’s name tattooed on my backside in 2008. Now I’m divorced. What’s the best way to remove it?
— Alex G.,
DEAR ALEX: According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, there’s a lot of tattoo regret going around.
In 2017, members of that medical society performed more than 85,000 removals! And that number is expected to go up: Millennials born in the 1980s and ’90s are the most tattooed segment of the population — 47% have one and 15% have five or more. Holy artist! Not surprisingly, one survey found that about 38% of people who regretted their tattoos got them on a whim between the ages of 18 and 21.
• Removal techniques: Laser removal, using the Q-switched laser, is the method of choice these days, but dermabrasion and even surgery to cut off the top layer of skin are sometimes used. However, those methods are more apt to leave scars, according to the American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery.
• How the laser works: The laser is set at the wavelength for the color to be eradicated, and then the pulse of the laser breaks apart the skin cells. The shattered ink gets absorbed and then cleared through your lymphatic system. (The worst color for tats is red, which may contain toxic cadmium.) If you have a big, colorful tattoo, it’ll cost you lots of time and money.
One firefighter in Texas reported that he spent six months and more than $6,000 to have his ex’s name removed (seven plain letters) from his back. What’s more, you and the firefighter are not alone, Alex. One recent survey found that half of all men who get “inked” end up regretting their tats. Women regret it, too. Amy Schumer, who wrote “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo,” used the hashtag #yesiknowmytattoosucks on Instagram.
So find a board-certified dermatologist who’s experienced with laser removal. The removal isn’t as painful as getting the tat, but the removal cost can really hurt.
DEAR DOCS: After I did a metric century bike ride (62 miles in a day), I came down with a terrible urinary tract infection. The antibiotic Cipro, which I’d taken before, used to work pretty well, but this time the infection resurged after I was done with the medication. I had to take a second type to knock it out. What’s up with that?
— Jessica H.,
DEAR JESSICA: Hard to say, not knowing the specific bacteria that invaded your urinary tract, but we do know that more urinary tract infections are becoming antibiotic resistant, increasing the risk that the UTI can spread to your kidneys. That can be lethal.
According to the Urology Care Foundation, about 60% of women (and 12% of men) will experience a UTI in their lifetime. UTIs account for more than 8 million doctor office visits a year in the U.S. and more than a million emergency department visits.
The most common UTIs are caused by the E. coli bacteria, and unfortunately it’s ever-more resistant to antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro). Doctors are now relying on combinations of antibiotics for recurrent infections.
What causes UTIs? According to researchers at Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic, “frequency of sexual activity is strongly correlated with UTIs.” However, they are also triggered by imbalance in your gut biome, inadvertent spread of bacteria from stool to urinary tract and aging skin that loses its ability to act as a barrier to infections. They’re also associated with menopause, use of spermicides (in a diaphragm) and a suppressed immune system.
To avoid another UTI, drink plenty of liquids (stay well-hydrated even when you’re not working out), drink cranberry juice extract or concentrate if you think a UTI might be starting (it seems to keep troublesome bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall), and after urination or bowel movements, wipe from front to back.