Young Woman Loses Her Toenails After Getting A Fish Pedicure

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If you've been thinking about getting one of those fish pedicures, this might make you think twice: a woman's toenails fell off after getting one.

Though it does not meet the legal definition of a pedicure, the practice of sticking your feet into a tub filled with diminutive omnivorous fish from the species Garra rufa has been a popular spa service worldwide for more than a decade, according to Dr Lipner. According to an American Medical Association report, a woman had this done, then shed her toenails.

The study marks the first fish-related diagnosis of onychomadesis, but the pedicure poses more podiatric health risks, Lipner said.

Fish pedicures have boomed since the first US 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. However, people with onychomadesis usually experience spontaneous regrowth of their nail within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 report in the journal Cutis. Dr. Lipner was convinced that her patient has no other previous health issues that would explain what happened with her toenails. The fish, which belong to the carp family and are native to the Middle East, normally eat plankton but will nibble on dead skin if no plankton is available.

"Being omnivores", the fish "will eat human skin", wrote case report author Dr. Shari Lipner, a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Lipner is unaware of any other such cases linked to fish spas, whose popularity seem to have drawn from unfounded claims about their health benefits, according to her report. It's a typical byproduct of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a viral infection common in children that appears as a rash on the hands and feet, so it's unclear how the infection was spread through the fish pedicure.

In the new case, it's not exactly clear how fish pedicures might cause onychomadesis, but it's likely that trauma from the fish biting multiple nails caused the nails to stop growing, the report said.

Lipner would not reveal where the woman got the pedicure, but noted the treatment has been banned in at least 10 states, largely due to health concerns. Additionally, the fish are sometimes recycled from person to person, and a bacterial outbreak among the fish was reported in a 2011 investigation by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate. According to the CDC, more than 10 US states have banned fish pedicures entirely. "Therefore, we will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome", she said.

Several spas in the US and Canada offer fish pedicures but they are controversial. But there were special contraindications for fish pedicures that needed to be considered; recent waxing or shaving, certain skin disorders and cuts on the feet or legs could increase one's risk of infection, she said.



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