Medical

Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails: doctor

Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails: doctor

A woman in her 20s reportedly lost all of her toenails after allegedly getting a so-called "fish pedicure", a treatment touted by many as rejuvenating for a person's feet. The woman assumed at first that she had onychomadesis, however, her dermatologist informed her that onychomadesis was not the reason this was happening.

Fish pedicures involve putting your feet in a tub of water filled with tiny fish called Garra rufa, which eat 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.

While it's not clear the flesh-nibbling fish caused it, experts have warned in the past that fish pedicures may carry a risk of infection. Lipner notes that our toenails only grow 1mm a month on average, while an entire nail can take as long as 18 months to be replaced. However, people with onychomadesis usually experience spontaneous regrowth of their nail within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 report in the journal Cutis. But this is the first case of onychomadesis tied to a fish pedicure, the new report said.

"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, wrote in an email.

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.




What she had done, though, was have a fish pedicure six months before. In addition, the fish themselves can not be sanitized between each customer's pedicure session, the CDC says. 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.

While Lipner believes that the woman's problems stemmed from the physical impact of the fish biting at the nail, she noted that there have been past reports of infections associated with fish pedicures, too.

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.

At least 10 states in the US have banned the treatment because of its potential health hazards, the CDC said, though 2011 Health Protection Agency guidelines considered the risk of bacterial infection from fish spas to be "very low" but not completely avoidable. "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.


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