Woman's toenails fall off after fish pedicure, researchers say

05 July, 2018, 02:28 | Author: Lillian Steele
  • After a young woman's toenails started to separate from her toes a doctor finally zeroed in on the reason a fish pedicure according to a report published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Dermatology

Six months into her nail troubles, she visited a dermatologist, who ruled out any known causes of onychomadesis, such as major illness or a side effect of certain medications.

The freakish beauty practice has people rest their feet in tubs of lukewarm water while tiny fish called Garra rufa nibble at their toes - exfoliating the skin by sucking off dead cells. The toothless carp fish - which are plant eaters - voraciously feast on dead human skin.

Soon, sessions with the rebranded "doctor fish" were also being hailed as a treatment for improving eczema, rough skin, circulation, and cleanliness.

Fish pedicures are said to leave feet smoother and smelling fresher, however, these claims are "unfounded", according to Lipner, adding there are many risks associated with it.

Fish pedicures have boomed since the first USA fish spa opened in Virginia in 2008, Lipner claims in the paper, due to what she calls "unfounded claims" that the treatment leaves feet smoother and less pungent, removes bacteria and fungus and increases circulation. Despite being in good health with no prior history of nail disorders, some of her toenails showed a separation and gradual disappearance of the underlying nail bed. Onychomadesis only temporarily stops nail growth, which usually resumes within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 study of the condition. "I am not convinced at all that the fishes caused the problem", Dr. Antonella Tosti, the Fredric Brandt Endowed Professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told CNN.

In the JAMA case, Lipner says with no other explanation for what could have caused the problems with the young woman's toenails, the pedicure seems the most likely culprit.

As for the woman, her nails will likely return, but not for a long time.

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Fish pedicures involve having small fish nibble at your feet while they're soaked in a tub of warm or room temperature water.

The case, as far as Lipner knows, would be the first documented instance of onychomadesis ever caused by fish.

She couldn't divulge where her patient got the procedure in order to protect her anonymity but noted the treatments are popular in China.

Dr. Lipner also advises people against getting a fish pedicure, as the practice has been banned in 10 states in America due to health concerns.

In the United Kingdom, an investigation was conducted by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate discovered bacteria outbreak among the fish used in these spas.

"We did have some concerns about the welfare of these animals being transported around the world, often by people with limited experience", he said.

Several spas in the US and Canada offer fish pedicures but they are controversial.

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