The Grapevine

Pedicure In Salon Infects Woman's Leg, Almost Leading To Amputation

After getting a pedicure at a local salon, a woman from North Carolina suffered an infection and was dangerously close to undergoing a foot amputation.

"Every day was a new chapter of what was going to happen to my leg. Was I going to lose my leg? Was I going to lose my life?" said the woman, named Tracy Lynn Martinez, in a Facebook post.

The source of the adverse effect was traced back to a callus cutter, a cosmetic tool used to remove dead skin from the heels and feet. Due to the risk of misuse, callus cutters are prohibited in many states including North Carolina.

Martinez, 35, treated herself to a pedicure at an unidentified salon in Winston-Salem on June 22. By the next day, she had begun experiencing symptoms like chills, nausea, and vomiting. She also noticed she was walking off balance since her leg had become swollen. 

In the ambulance on the way to the emergency room, it was discovered that she had developed a severe case of cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection that can spread into the lymph nodes and bloodstream.

Bacteria such as emolytic streptococcus, streptococcus pneumoniae, and staphylococcus aureus can cause the infection. In some cases, the infection can even be life-threatening.

According to Martinez, the bacteria had entered her body through two cuts on her heel. The seemingly harmless wound was caused by the callus cutter used during her pedicure.

"When the skin is compromised even a bit — like with a minor scrape — it is very easy for bacteria to creep in and wreak havoc," said dermatologist Mona Gohara, an assistant clinical professor at Yale University. "I never let them use instruments on me when I get a pedicure for this very reason; it’s too risky."

Any treatment which is abrasive on the skin can carry a risk of infection. It can be hard to disinfect the tools between several customers who may come in for pedicures, foot baths, and other procedures.

For this reason, it is strongly recommended that people purchase their own callus shaver to use at home. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) also offered gentler alternatives including the use of pumice stones, foot files, or exfoliating scrubs.

Luckily, Martinez did not have to lose her leg in this case. But she will have to take medications for the next few months and wear compression stockings on the affected leg on a long-term basis.

"I have been through hell, pain, shock, all of it. But I want to raise awareness," she wrote, warning others to "say no" to callus cutters during salon procedures. People who witness the illegal use of the tool in the state are encouraged to file a complaint to the North Carolina Board of Cosmetics.