Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails, report says


The patient didn't have any typical risk factors for toenail problems - such as an injury to the nails, or a family history of nail disorders - but she did report that she had a fish pedicure a few months before her nail problems started.

You know the ones we're talking about: The gimmicky pedicure in which you dunk your feet in water and tiny fish nibble away dead 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".

Soon, sessions with the rebranded "doctor fish" were also being hailed as a treatment for improving eczema, rough skin, circulation, and cleanliness.

Experts say they're unsure how infections might be spread through fish pedicures. "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. A woman's toenails stopped growing after she received a fish pedicure, a study claims. He explained that people who have feet where their second toes are longer than their first toe, called a Greek foot, may have nail loss when wearing high heels and pointed shoes.

And even if spa owners can properly sanitize the fish and tubs, research shows disease-causing bacteria can be readily found in both the tubs and fish used in these spas, she added. There were reports of a patient with a Staphylococcus aureus infection after a fish pedicure.

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Toenails usually grow at about 1 millimeter per month, Lipner said, so a nail can take up to a year to fully grow back.

"Unfortunately the water is sometimes contaminated with bacteria and other pathogens and the fish themselves can do more damage than good", Day said.

The report doesn't specify where the woman had her pedicure, for the sake of protecting her anonymity, but it's worth noting that the pedicures have been banned in many states in the U.S., but they remain popular in China. In 2011, the Vancouver Island Health Authority also banned it, saying that there were bacterial risks because the fish could not be sterilized.

"We will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome", she said.

At least 10 states in the USA 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. "It was a bit of a craze people got excited about, and then they moved on to the next thing", said Verner-Jeffreys, who added that the concern surrounding fish spas is not just about human health.