Retinal vasculitis and cystoid macular edema after body tattooing: a case report

Klin Monbl Augenheilkd. 2004 May;221(5):424-6. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-812815.


Background: To report a case of retinal vasculitis occurring after the placement of permanent tattoos.

History and signs: A 21-year-old male was referred to our department with impairment of visual acuity. Permanent tattoos covered the head, body, arms and legs. The patient was examined with ophthalmoscopy, fluorescein angiography, indocyanine green angiography and optical coherence tomography. Systemic medical and laboratory work-up were performed in order to exclude an infectious agent or an inflammatory disease. He had no history of intravenous drug abuse.

Therapy and outcome: Our patient presented severe posterior uveitis associated with retinal vasculitis and cystoid macular edema. Laboratory tests ruled out all diseases causing vasculitis. HIV and B, C hepatitis tests were negative. Cystoid macular edema and vasculitis were resolved after immunosuppressive therapy.

Conclusions: This is the first description of a retinal vasculitis associated with cystoid macular edema in a completely healthy individual after the placement of permanent tattoos. A phagocytosis of tattoo pigments leading to their lysis is described in the literature as a mechanism causing vasculitis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Macula Lutea / drug effects
  • Macula Lutea / pathology
  • Macular Edema / diagnosis
  • Macular Edema / drug therapy
  • Macular Edema / etiology*
  • Male
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Recurrence
  • Retina / drug effects
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retinal Vasculitis / diagnosis
  • Retinal Vasculitis / drug therapy
  • Retinal Vasculitis / etiology*
  • Tattooing / adverse effects*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Vision, Low / diagnosis
  • Vision, Low / drug therapy
  • Vision, Low / etiology
  • Visual Acuity / drug effects


  • Immunosuppressive Agents