Woman lost her toenails after fish pedicure

Faith Castro
July 6, 2018

The female subject in the report had claimed to receive a fish pedicure some months before beginning to notice the abnormal nail behavior.

These pedicures involve dunking your feet in a tub of water filled with tiny fish called Garra rufa.

The freakish 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. These fish are omnivores and in their natural habitat ingest plankton, but when there's no plant life around they will eat human skin, nibbling away at calluses and rough cuticles for a "natural" beauty treatment.

The usual toenail offenders didn't apply (running, a foot or toenail injury, a nail disorder), but she did reveal she had a fish pedicure in the months before her nail problems began. The woman assumed at first that she had onychomadesis, however, her dermatologist informed her that onychomadesis was not the reason this was happening.

Lipner underscored that "while the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix". But this is the first case of onychomadesis tied to a fish pedicure, the new report said.

Lipner warned against the efficacy of fish pedicures.

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Although a fish pedicure may sound like a toe-tickling unique experience, you could potentially lose your toenails - seriously.

The beauty craze has been banned in 10 USA states - including NY - because of health concerns.

"First, tubs and fish can not be adequately sanitized between people", Lipner said, "with the same fish typically reused for several persons". 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. About 10 states in the country have banned the service.

Also, Garra rufa fish can carry bacteria like Streptococcus agalactiae, which can eventually lead to more serious problems like pneumonia and other bacterial infections.

The tanks aren't always sanitized adequately and bacteria can be found in the water and the fish. Essentially, the fish in the tub are actually starved so they will feed on your dead skin! The woman, in her 20s, had reported no pain or previous trauma, no medical issues, no history of major illness or high fever and no vaccinations or use of medications in the past year.

As for Lipner's patient, her nails will grow back, though it'll take time.

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