'Fish Pedicure' Causes Woman to Lose Her Toenails

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A New York City woman who got a trendy "fish pedicure" may have lost a little more than the dead skin on her feet - she may have lost her toenails, too. Fish pedicures involve a person placing their feet in a warm tub of water while having small fish nibble on them.

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.

The study marks the first fish-related diagnosis of onychomadesis, but the pedicure poses more podiatric health risks, Lipner said. If you don't know, the fish pedicure is just like it sounds. This nail shedding is called onychomadesis, and it usually results in the nail falling off after an injury stops nail growth.

Writing in the journal JAMA Dermatology, she explained that the weird beauty ritual first gained traction after people noticed that wild populations of the toothless fish - a member of the carp family native to Turkey - liked to nibble on human skin, and for whatever reason, preferred munching on unsightly psoriasis plaques more than normal tissue.

Dr. Shari R. Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine, wrote a report on the young woman's case in JAMA Dermatology. 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.

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

What she had done, though, was have a fish pedicure six months before.

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.

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

"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.

Here in Canada, the Vancouver Island Health Authority shut down a fish pedicure spa in Duncan, B.C.in 2011, citing concerns the pedicures could lead to the transmission of skin diseases. They hit their peak in popularity in the USA around a decade ago, but have since been banned in at least 10 states, including NY, largely because of health concerns.

There have even been two recorded cases of serious staph infections tied to fish pedicures, Lipner noted. "Therefore, we will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome", she said.

Verner-Jeffreys did comment that the fish spa phase didn't last long in the United Kingdom.

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