“Up to 25 percent of patients with diabetes will develop the most common foot wound — a foot ulcer,” reports Judy Mansker RN, program director of the IU Heath Ball Memorial Wound Healing Services. She explains, “People with diabetes must be careful of where they get pedicures, what shoes they wear and even how they dry in-between their toes.” Salons that do not properly sanitize tools can spread foot fungus or infections that can be devastating to patients with diabetes, as they run a high risk of amputation, should a cut turn into a sore.
Yet, most people think of pedicures as safe, relaxing, pampering procedures — not cesspools of microbes. So, it’s only natural to wonder: Are all pedicures off-limits?
What Are The Dangers Associated With Pedicures?
“I’ve had the bottom of my foot cut because they shaved it too close,” diabetic Sharon La Grange told Channel 8 News Las Vegas. A simple cut can open the body to a world of problems.
According to Ann Marie Pettis, director of Infection Prevention at Strong Memorial Hospital, risks include:
– Fungal infections
– Blood-borne pathogens like Hepatitis B and C or HIV
– Staph infections
– Pseudomonas germs
“Really, the pedicure instruments and the foot bath present the greatest risk,” Pettis explains. “If you get a pedicure when you have a rash, cut, or even bug bites, you could make yourself more vulnerable to infection—and you also increase the chance of sharing an infection with the next customer.”
Lee J. Sanders DPM of the VA Medical Center in Lebanon, PA adds that a break in the skin can be a life-threatening complication. “I would caution individuals with diabetes not to receive a pedicure because of the sanitary conditions of the salon, the skills of the individual performing the pedicure, and the cleanliness of the instruments used,” she says.
People don’t hesitate to visit a nail salon, regardless of their foot conditions. “I’ve seen everything from infected in-grown toenails, athlete’s foot, warts,” says Las Vegas podiatrist Jodi Politz. “I’ve seen cuts from the curette blades from cutting off the hard skin from corns and calluses or cracks in their hills.”
Some promotions explicitly state that their services do not extend to diabetics or people on blood thinners because they do not want that risk.
Can The Threat Be Minimized?
On the other hand, some doctors realize that people will do what they want, regardless of the risk, because they truly enjoy pedicures and like the smooth, healthy feeling of their skin after a little extra TLC paid to the feet. For that reason, Dr. Pettis offers the following advice:
– Inquire about a spa’s sanitation practices.
– Ask if they use an EPA-approved disinfectant.
– Bring your own instruments to a spa.
– Let the spa know you have diabetes.
– Ask that they trim any callouses with a pumice stone, rather than a razor.
– Try to be the first customer of the day, when the spa is the cleanest.
Jodi S. Politz, DPM from Las Vegas says that anyone with diabetes can get a pedicure anywhere, so long as an experienced technician uses clean, sterile instruments. In addition to the aforementioned advice, she recommends:
– Skipping appointments if you have a cut, blister, infection, ulcer or neuropathy.
– Finding a salon that uses pipeless pedicure chair basins, as less bacteria can hide here.
– Looking for salons that use stainless steel tools and inspecting them for cleanliness.
– Asking that the technician avoid clipping cuticles, filing the heel, or clipping calluses.
Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N tells her patients to ask the technician to keep the water temperature to 90-95 degrees or lower and to avoid getting lotion rubbed between the toes. She adds, “If you shave your legs, stop 2 days before the appointment to decrease your chances of bacteria entering nicks or cuts.”
Diabetes Pedicures – The Bottom Line:
Before getting a pedicure, it’s important for diabetics to weigh the pros and cons. In some cases, it may be better to purchase an at-home foot spa and a tool kit to do the pedicure yourself. If you are unable to work on your own feet, keep in mind that some podiatrists specialize in pedicure-like services, but guarantee a more sterilized, medical type of environment. Lastly, be sure to keep your feet as clean and sanitary as possible, using every tool at your disposal.