As PWDs (people with diabetes), we face a huge laundry list of things we're supposed to do, and an equally long list of things we're not supposed to do, including having pedicures, getting waxed, or making any kind of permanent change to our bodies, namely getting pierced or tattooed. But where did these rules come from? And are they really worth listening to in this day and age? Today, Allison and I take a look a few of these "diabetes no-no's" to see what you can really get away with.
Amy: I didn't realize what a diabetes rebel I was until I read Kerri's recent post about the taboo on pedicures with diabetes. What the ... ? She was told as a youngster never to set foot in a nail salon, and has been afraid to do so ever since.
I, on the other hand, who was diagnosed at age 37, happen to live for salon pedicures. I have for a number of years now. I've even been to several mani-pedi birthday parties for friends here in the San Francisco Bay Area. My girlfriends and I just love the love salon experience. Nothing is quite as relaxing as sitting in that automatic-massage chair and having your feet luxuriously cleaned and pampered by a professional. You pick out youir colors and then plunge your feet into that little foot-sized hot tub to soak in fragrance water before they even get started... mmmm...
Could I cut my toenails at home and paint them myself? Certainly I could. I just don't want to. I know that there are many myths / rumors / warnings out there about salons that carry bacteria, but I, fortunately, have never had a negative experience, even after dozens (hundreds?) of salon pedicures. Salons have to be licensed by each state, and I always look for licensing information, usually displayed on the walls. I also look for general cleanliness clues, like where/how the clipping tools are stored, and the state of the bathroom — I kid you not! If the salon's bathroom looks shabby, head for the hills, Gals! That's a clear sign that things aren't being kept up. I also rely a lot on word of mouth. Salons are hyper-local, so if your local gang recommends them, thumbs up! If anybody you know has had a bad experience with a local salon, proceed with caution, for sure!
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If anything pokes or pinches during your pedi, shout loudly, right away! There should be zero discomfort involved in a good pedicure, I can tell you that. But yes, Kerri: it usually tickles. A lot. And that's not a bad thing. Just makes it hard to sit still while they're painting your little piggies, is all ;)
Allison: This might be venturing into TMI territory, but one of the first things I was surprised to learn is that, as a PWD, I shouldn't get waxed. Yes, that kind of waxed. What gives? Well, when the hair is ripped out of the skin, it leaves the skin more prone to infection from in-grown hairs. Anything related to infection (which is most of this list) is immediately banned from PWDs because high blood sugar can prolong healing. There have certainly been a few scary tales, but are problems post-waxing so common that it needs to be completely avoided? Clearly, if you're very prone to infection or in-grown hairs, you might want to be extra careful. Also, make sure you pick a reputable establishment, per Amy's comments above — for the sake of your unmentionables! But otherwise, this goes on our NBD list (No Big Deal). At our next appointment, we're sticking to the tried-and-true "don't ask, don't tell" policy that PWDs often use!
Allison: I think this is one of the first rules I broke. Although I suffered through my fair share of regrettable sartorial choices in the name of fashion, open-toed shoes have always been something I have embraced with ease, especially given the hot and humid Northeast summers. Obviously, if you know you have neuropathy, you should probably avoid uncomfortable shoes that cause blisters. If you are willingly wearing shoes that cause blisters, please try to find attractive shoes you love that actually fit your feet! Ouch!
WebMD has a laundry list of rules: don't walk barefoot, don't wear high heels, don't wear new shoes for more than an hour at a time. Seriously, who makes this stuff up? I'm pretty sure I've broken every rule on this list... We say that as long as your shoes are comfortable and aren't causing blisters, you're probably safe in those cute new open-toed wedges. But yes, if you're planning on off-roading it with a summer hike, your best bet is to cover up your toes.
Body Art - Tattoos & Piercings
Allison: And then there are tattoos. One of the most permanent changes you can make to your body. We've written about folks getting medic alert tattoos before, so it's certainly something that PWDs can do, but are they allowed? Do you have to hide your diabetes in order to get one done?
Turns out: nope! This is definitely one myth that can be laid to rest. From medical alert tattoos to tattoo artist Darren Brass, a PWD and star on TV's Miami Ink, there is plenty of proof that diabetics can get tattoos with nary a problem. Of course, you want to make sure that you take care of your tattoo so that it heals properly, and there are some spots to get tattooed that are better than others. For example, lower extremities, like the ankles, might be a challenge for people with poor circulation.
Diabetes certainly didn't stop me from getting my very first tattoo this past weekend!
When filling out the liability forms, it did ask if I had diabetes, HIV, epilepsy or was pregnant. If I did have any of those, I was supposed to tell the tattoo artist. So, for the purposes of research, I did tell, wondering what they'd say. Turns out, they just like to know in case I faint. If they knew I had diabetes, they wouldn't simply think, "Oh she just can't stand needles!" So it was actually a really smart thing to ask, and it wasn't an issue at all.
It turns out piercing are in a similar boat. As long as your blood sugar is under good control (doctors recommend A1C under 8%) and you're up to the task of keeping your new piercing clean, you're at a pretty low risk for developing an infection. Staying infection-free does mean there's some work involved. Make sure to follow the directions for keeping a piercing clean, which means washing it regularly or using sea salt or antibacterial soap. They say you should consider the piercing an open wound and take proper care of it as it heals, which can take weeks! Personally, I've had diabetes since I was 8 years old, and now have six piercings: two in each lobe, one in my right nostril and one on my upper right ear. Keeping a piercing clean doesn't take a lot of time, but it's something you have to do consistently.
Tell us, Dear Readers, what kind of diabetes "no-no" rules have you broken? And how did you fare?