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

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

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

According to a new report in the journal JAMA Dermatology, the patient had received such a treatment and noticed later that her toenails began shedding. The woman said she had no history of any pain or trauma to her toes, no nail disorders or recent illnesses, and hadn't started any new medications.

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

The fish's voracious feasting is said to help treat conditions such as psoriasis as well as beautify the skin, lending them the nickname of "Doctor Fish".

A photo showing onychomadesis on the first, second, and third toe of each of the patient's feet.

"I wouldn't say it necessarily poses a significant risk to humans, but it did illustrate that they may be carrying things which are nasty both to fish and humans".

"While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatising the nail matrix", Sheri Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University's Weill Cornell Medicine and the woman's treating doctor, told Gizmodo via email. Onychomadesis only temporarily stops nail growth, which usually resumes within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 study of the condition.

"I do not recommend fish pedicures for any medical or aesthetic goal", Lipner said.

When a young US woman began losing her toenails, her doctors were baffled.

The case, as far as Lipner knows, would be the first documented instance of onychomadesis ever caused by fish. In addition, in 2014, researchers from Italy reported the case of a person who took a fish pedicure and then developed a foot infection caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium.

Another species of fish, which "grows teeth and can draw blood", is sometimes mistaken for Garra rufa and used in fish pedicures, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This case highlights the importance of skin and nail problems associated with fish pedicures and the need for dermatologists to educate our patients about these adverse effects", the report concludes.

For the sake of protecting her patient's anonymity, Lipner can't reveal where the woman got her pedicure.

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 2011, an investigation by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate found a bacterial outbreak among thousands of these fish, which had been transported from Indonesia to United Kingdom pedicure spas.

"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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