Psoriasis is a skin disease whose main symptom is the presence of big spots that cover the skin with white-silver flakes. The most commonly affected areas are elbows, knees, the scalp and the area near the tailbone. When the spots appear in traumatized areas, this is called “Koebner’s phenomenon”. It affects almost 25% of the patients with psoriasis.

Different factors may cause this phenomenon. If you have psoriasis, getting a tattoo may provoke Koebner’s phenomenon and make the spots appear right on the drawing.

Koebner’s phenomenon

As Professor Antonio Costanzo, Supervisor of Dermatology at Humanitas and teacher at Humanitas University, explains, “Koebner’s phenomenon is unpredictable. Today we know that this happens due to damaged skin cells that release tiny proteins (antimicrobial peptides) and methylated DNA. Together, they trigger the cells of the innate immune system to cause an inflammatory reaction. As a result, the psoriatic plaque appears. We can’t foresee the number of the factors, and thus we can’t know beforehand if a trauma will cause psoriasis”.

The size of the tattoo does not affect the risk of developing psoriatic spots. Moreover, some pigments (such as yellow and red) may induce a higher activation of the immune system, because they are irritant or immunogenic”.

Psoriasis may become symptomatic after getting the tattoo

In addition to this, the tattoo may provoke the manifestation of the disease, that until that time was inactive. As Professor Costanzo explains, “This happens, with every psychical trauma that affects someone who is genetically predisposed to suffer from this disease”.

The injection of pigments into the skin interferes with the skin balance, and it may provoke severe inflammatory reactions that may lead to the appearance of psoriatic spots in asymptomatic patients.