Over 29 million people in the United States alone have diabetes. That’s 9.3 percent of the population. And each year, 1.4 million more people are diagnosed. In adults, over 90 percent of those diagnoses are for type 2 diabetes, though many of the tattoos below are on those with type 1 diabetes or on those who love them.
Many people who have diabetes, or know someone who does, choose to get inked. For some, it’s for their own safety: Getting the word “diabetic” tattooed on their arm can help make sure those around them are aware in case of an emergency. For others, it’s about raising awareness. And for loved ones, it’s about solidarity.
Whatever the reasons, these tattoos, which were submitted by some of our readers, all send powerful messages. Check them out below!
If you'd like to share the story behind your diabetes tattoo, email us with the subject line "My diabetes tattoo" and be sure to include: a photo of your tattoo, a short description of why you got it or why you love it, and your name.
“I decided to get my diabetes tattoo mainly because I never wore my medical bracelet and I wanted to make sure that I had some sort of permanent marking in case of emergency. Since having the tattoo, I have found that it, in addition to keeping me safe, also allows me to commemorate my struggles as a diabetic and showcase my artsy flair.” -Amelia
“This tattoo is on my leg. My son drew this in pencil 10 days before he passed away. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 4 and died at age 14 on March 25, 2010.” -Jen Nicholson
“I’ve had type 1 diabetes since January 3, 2007. The butterfly represents me, the blue circle represents type 1 juvenile diabetes, and the grey ribbon represents diabetes awareness.” -Vanessa
“About a year ago, I got ‘DIABETIC’ tattooed on my left arm. The right arm shows my diagnosis date. I used to be very against the term diabetic because I didn't want to be referred to as a disease. I found that fear guided that thought. Now, claiming ‘diabetic’ means being empowered to me.” -Heather Gabel
“I'm 25, and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 19. My wife designed my tattoo one night playing around. I wanted something that represented me as a whole. The medic symbol and the blood drop symbolize that I live with diabetes. The rainbow symbolizes that I’m gay. Purple roses are my favorite flower, and my wife is the yellow butterfly who watches over me.” -Kat Jordan
“I'm from Brazil. I am a type 1 diabetic, diagnosed when I was 9 years old. Now I'm 25 years old. I did the tattoo after my parents saw the campaign on television, and I also liked the idea. To be a little different from the ordinary, I decided to make the blue symbol of diabetes, with details in watercolor.” -Vinícius J. Rabelo
“I decided to get this tattoo for my type 1 son. He became a type 1 diabetic right after he turned 5. He is 12 now. The blue circle is the universal symbol for diabetes. The gray ribbon with the drop of blood is the diabetes awareness ribbon.” -Lisa
“I got this tattoo in memory of my mom who lost her battle with diabetes in April of this year. I also wear it for my fiancé in the hopes of finding a cure.” -Julie
“I've gone through many stages of medic alert devices (necklace, bracelet) but never liked any of them and often went without. Many of my friends had gotten diabetes ribbon tattoos previously, and I figured why can't I get a diabetes tattoo that is also like an alert? I got this prominently on my wrist, at the same place you would check for a pulse (just in case). I've had a lot more people notice this in the past year I've had it than I ever did with a bracelet.” -Alexandra Carlson
“This tattoo is for my daughter Ashley. She was diagnosed with type 1 on April Fool’s Day, 2010. She is so brave and amazing! Her diagnosis literally saved my life. Not only did we change our eating habits as a family, but three days after her diagnosis, while demonstrating that it doesn’t hurt to check your sugar, I found that my own blood sugar was over 400. A week later I was diagnosed with type 2. Since then I have lost 136 pounds so that I could lead by example and be in better health and enjoy many more years with my amazing daughter who inspires me every day to do better and be better and to be strong.” -Sabrina Tierce
“This is my diabetes tattoo. I designed it and the tattoo that my wife got the same night. I got it for my wife, who has been living with diabetes since she was 19. Today marks one month since we've been married and we won't let diabetes take over our lives. We’re bigger than this fight. We will find a cure. Until then, love is what we have.” -Ashton Jordan
“I'm from Caracas, Venezuela, and I’ve been diabetic since I was 12 years old. Now I'm 21. I like to call myself a diabetic because that's who I am and I'm not ashamed. My tattoo was inspired by my condition, which is something that has a lot of meaning to me. The blue circle is the symbol for diabetes. I really want to help people to not feel ashamed about who they are. You're diabetic. SO WHAT? You need to feel proud of yourself, because you're stronger than anyone else.” -Lineth Elena Avila
“I got my tattoo to honor my daughter Abbey who was diagnosed at age 7 with type 1. She is 11 now and is truly rocking her new lifestyle in a positive and healthy way!” -Anonymous
“I have this tattoo for my daughter, Shelby, and it has several meanings for both of us. We've always liked the story of Ralph from ‘The Mouse and the Motorcycle’ by Beverly Cleary. I collected mice, I like and drive my own motorcycle, and even my daughter now has her motorcycle license. Ralph in the story uses his motorcycle to obtain an aspirin for a sick little boy and goes through a lot to get it to ‘cure’ the little boy's illness. So I've got Ralph wearing a ‘ribbon’ in gray with a blue outline (best they could do with a small picture) with ‘Race to a Cure for Shelby’ like a banner.” -Sherrie Fontaine
“Cure in Gaelic for my Fallon Mary, diagnosed on June 30, 2004.” -Anonymous
“This is my diabetes tattoo I got in honor of my daughter. She has had diabetes since she was 4 and I got it on April 15, 2012, the 13-year anniversary of her diagnosis.” -Anonymous
“I created this tattoo for my two daughters: Haley, diagnosed on December 22, 2000, and her baby sister Paige, diagnosed on October 3, 2010. I went to my knees in tears both times my girls were diagnosed. The rose above the heart is for Haley's twin sister, Savannah. She is battling bouncing blood sugars and a prediabetic A1c. When Haley turned 18, she got a tattoo that reads ‘Diabetic’ for safety reasons and I decided to get one with her.” -Anonymous