Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails, report says

Henrietta Brewer
July 5, 2018

A once trendy spa treatment, the fish pedicure, has caused one woman's toenails to fall off, according to a report by JAMA Dermatology.

Lipner said the woman's nails may grow back - but it'll take as long as 18 months.

The weird 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 small, toothless omnivores will eat human skin when insufficient plant sources exist, which has been suggested to improve the condition and look of a person's feet.

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.

She wasn't in pain, but there appeared to be breaks in her toenails, so that the bottom part of her nails separated from the top part.

Fish pedicures utilize the skin-eating talents of Garra rufa fish.

It's thought that the woman will not be toenail-free forever.

Lipner diagnosed onychomadesis - a not-uncommon condition that's most often linked to underlying major illness or certain medications. "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.

Fish pedicures may be a fun way to exfoliate rough heels, but experts are now warning that the procedure may pose an infection risk.

Experts say fish pedicures could cause infections.


"Tubs and fish can not be adequately sanitized between people, and the same fish are typically reused for successive persons", she wrote. "Thus, there are concerns of transmitting infections between people undergoing these pedicures".

Fish pedicures might cause infections. In work done previously with the UK's Health Protection Agency, she helped produce the agency's 2011 guidance on fish spas.

But that risk can't be "completely excluded", the report added.

DailyMail reports that the 10-year-old trend became less fashionable amid reports it could spread blood borne infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C, if sufferers bleed in the water.

"We don't see the [nail] shedding until months after the event, so I think it's hard for patients and physicians - especially if they're not even aware that fish pedicures can do this - to make that connection". The CDC notes that there are a few different reasons these bans are in place, including lack of tub sanitation between customers.

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