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DIABETES Diabetic Foot Problems

Pedicures and Diabetes- Safety Tips for a Diabetic Considering a Pedicure

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When you have diabetes, it’s important to take special care of your feet. That’s because diabetes can cause problems with circulation and nerve function, which can lead to foot ulcers, infections, and even amputation. 

In regards to pedicures and diabetes, diabetics can get pedicures done, but there are certain precautions to take before and during a pedicure.

In this article, we’ll discuss safety tips that you should follow when getting a pedicure, as well as WHY diabetics should be careful when getting pedicures. 

foot massage

Safety Tips Diabetic Patients Should Follow When Getting a Pedicure

If you wish to get a pedicure, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your pedicure is safe and comfortable.

1) Find a Salon That Has Appropriate Sanitation Policies in Place

Salon employees should be using sterile instruments that have been properly sanitized between each customer. 

If the salon does not have an autoclave (a machine that uses pressure and steam to sterilize instruments), then the instruments should be soaked in an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant for at least 20 minutes before being used on you. 

If possible, bring your own nail kit. You can buy it on Amazon. This includes items such as clippers, files, and emery boards. This way, you can be sure that the tools being used on you are clean and sterile. 

Check to see if the salon uses disposable pedicure liners in their tubs. One of the main reasons to use disposable pedicure liners is to protect yourself from bacteria and other contaminants.

Whirlpool tubs are often used in pedicure stations, and while they are cleaned between each use, they can still harbor bacteria. By placing a liner between your foot and the tub, you can rest assured knowing that you’re protected from any harmful bacteria.

2) Let the Salon Staff Know That You Have Diabetes Before the Pedicure Starts

It’s important to inform the salon staff about your diabetic condition prior to beginning the pedicure process. This will allow them to tailor their services to meet your unique health needs, and take necessary precautions to avoid any potential complications. 

They can adjust their techniques, avoid certain procedures, and use products specifically designed for sensitive skin. 

Additionally, they can ensure a gentler approach, particularly during exfoliation and massage, to prevent any unintentional injuries.

3) Sanitize Your Feet Before the Pedicure

Before your pedicure begins, your feet will need to be sanitized. This is important for all pedicures, but it’s especially important for diabetics because they’re more susceptible to infection. 

To sanitize your feet, simply wash them with soap and water. Avoid using scented soaps. 

4) Don’t Shaving Your Leg for Two Days Before a Pedicure to Avoid Skin Problems

Avoiding shaving your legs for at least two days prior to a pedicure can significantly improve your overall experience. Shaving can cause minor abrasions on the skin, making it more susceptible to infections. 

The products used during a pedicure, such as exfoliants or lotions, can irritate freshly shaved skin, leading to discomfort. 

Unshaven legs may also better absorb the moisturizing products used during a pedicure, leading to a more beneficial and nourishing treatment. 

5) Ask the Nail Technician to Cut Your Nails Straight Across

Ask the nail technician to trim your nails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. Do not round the corners of your nails. 

They can use a nail file to smooth any rough edges on your nails. Avoid cutting the cuticles. 

6) Avoid Pedicures if You Have Open Sores

If you have a foot ulcer, you should avoid a pedicure at all costs. Getting a pedicure can make the infection worse. 

Make sure all foot sores are closed before scheduling your pedicure.

Why Do Diabetics Have to Be Careful With Pedicures?

infection foot

Diabetics With Neuropathy Are at Risk for Infection

Many people with diabetes have diabetic neuropathy.

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur in people with diabetes with chronically elevated blood sugar levels. It can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the feet and legs. 

When you have diabetic neuropathy, it can be difficult to feel the bottoms of your feet. You may have developed cuts and wounds in your feet that you are unaware of. 

If you get a pedicure done, the cuts and wounds can become infected and cause further problems. 

Also, many people with numbness in their feet cannot feel the difference between hot and cold water. If you soak your feet in water that is too hot, you may sustain a burn. 

To read more about how to treat diabetic neuropathy, check out this supplemental post: Diabetic Neuropathy In The Feet- A Simple Treatment Guide

Diabetics With Peripheral Vascular Disease Are at Risk for Ulcers

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a condition that arises when the blood vessels outside of your heart and brain become damaged. This damage can cause a decrease in blood flow to your extremities, which can lead to a host of problems.

PVD is more common in people with diabetes than in those without the disease. This is because diabetes can damage the blood vessels and can lead to decreased blood flow in the feet. 

People with diabetes are also more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for PVD.

If you have PVD, small cuts and wounds can be difficult to heal. If the skin is nicked during nail trimming or cutting of the cuticles during a pedicure, it can be slow to heal. 

dry skin feet

Diabetics Have Drier Skin

Many diabetics have autonomic neuropathy.

Autonomic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur as a result of diabetes. When autonomic nerves are damaged, they can no longer send signals properly between the brain and the body’s organs and systems. This can lead to several symptoms, including dry skin. 

Dry skin is a common symptom of autonomic neuropathy because damage to the autonomic nerves can interfere with the body’s ability to sweat. 

Sweating helps keep our skin hydrated and protected from bacteria and other potential irritants. When we don’t sweat enough, our skin becomes dry, cracked, and more susceptible to infection.

Soaking your feet for prolonged periods (like during a pedicure) can dry out your skin further. This can increase your risk of developing deep fissures in the skin that turn into ulcers.

toenail damage

Diabetics Are at Higher Risk for Developing Nail Problems

Diabetics are at a higher risk of developing ingrown toenails.

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the nail grows into the flesh of the toe. This can happen if you trim your nails too short or if they become damaged. The big toe is most commonly affected, but any toe can be affected.

People with diabetes are more likely to develop ingrown toenails due to improper trimming of the toenails. Ingrown toenails can lead to bacterial infections. 

Also, due to neuropathy and the inability to feel their feet, many diabetics will develop thickened fungal toenails due to chronic microtrauma and damage to the toenails. 

When there is a breach of the area between the toenail and the nail bed, fungal infections and mold can easily infect the toes. Fungal infections are more commonly seen in diabetics (1)

In pedicure tubs, bacteria and fungal infections may be present despite best efforts at sanitization.

A study by E. Choi in Environmental Health Review found that the presence of mycobacteria in personal service establishments is common. 

When the bacteria are introduced into footbaths, they colonize and also recirculate in grates. Shaving your legs before a pedicure can increase your risk of developing an infection (2). 

Should Diabetics Get Foot Massages?

There are many benefits of diabetic foot massage, although the effects are temporary. These benefits include improved circulation, reduced inflammation, enhanced nerve function, and reduced pain. 

Diabetic foot massage can also help to reduce the risk of infection.

What Is the Difference Between a Pedicure and a Medical Pedicure

A regular pedicure is focused on cosmetic concerns like nail polish color and cuticle care. On the other hand, a medical pedicure is primarily concerned with addressing foot health issues. Medical pedicures are often recommended for people with diabetes. 

During a medical pedicure, your technician will carefully assess the condition of your feet and nails. They’ll look for signs of infection or inflammation and take note of any areas that need special care. 

In some cases, they may even recommend that you see a foot doctor before the pedicure. 

Medical pedicures typically involve more than just cosmetic treatments – they may also include treatments like paraffin wax dips or iontophoresis (a treatment that uses electrical currents to deliver medication through the skin). 

These additional treatments can help to improve foot health by reducing inflammation, increasing circulation, and preventing infections.

Contact your local foot doctor to see if their clinic provides medical pedicure services. 

Can a Pedicure Cause Nerve Damage?

While a pedicure is typically a safe treatment, there are instances where it could potentially cause temporary nerve damage, especially if not conducted with due care and professional expertise. 

This risk can arise during procedures that involve intense exfoliation, such as callus removal, or aggressive grooming of the cuticles, which could lead to irritation of the peripheral nerves. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, a pedicure can be a pleasant and beneficial experience for individuals with diabetes, provided they adhere to the specific safety guidelines outlined above. Ensuring a clean, sanitary environment and professional service is crucial to prevent the development of a foot wound (diabetic sores).  

Open communication about your health condition, particularly any skin problems or symptoms of nerve damage, can significantly minimize risks associated with pedicures. Managing diabetes involves special attention to all aspects of health, including meticulous foot care to avoid complications. 

With the right precautions, pedicures can certainly be a part of this care regimen, helping to maintain the health of your feet and prevent further complications.

Related article: Foot Problems From Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention of Diabetic Foot Problems

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References

  1. Jason A. Winston, Jami L. Miller; Treatment of Onychomycosis in Diabetic Patients. Clin Diabetes 1 October 2006; 24 (4): 160–166. https://diabetesjournals.org/clinical/article/24/4/160/1559/Treatment-of-Onychomycosis-in-Diabetic-Patients
  2. Choi, E., Reilly, K., Sargent, R., & Wells, V. (2013). Pedicure-associated infections. Environmental Health Review, 56(02), 39-48.https://pubs.ciphi.ca/doi/full/10.5864/d2013-015
  3. Bonner T, Foster M, Spears-Lanoix E. Type 2 diabetes-related foot care knowledge and foot self-care practice interventions in the United States: a systematic review of the literature. Diabet Foot Ankle. 2016 Feb 17;7:29758.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761684/

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Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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