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

Six of the woman's toenails began to look abnormal in the months after a fish pedicure. This image appears in her case report

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

A woman reportedly lost her toenails after getting a fish pedicure. And although there's no way to test for fish-pedicure-induced toenail loss, she told CNN, "I think we're fairly sure that it was the fish pedicure".

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.

Earlier this year, a young woman from NY came to the dermatologists at Weill Cornell Medicine hospital because six of her toenails had begun detaching from her foot for no apparent reason six months prior.

That's because we know that fish pedicures pose a risk of transmitting infections, as the fish are often used on more than one customer. The fish, which belong to the carp family and are native to the Middle East, normally eat plankton but will nibble on dead skin if no plankton is available. A woman's toenails stopped growing after she received a fish pedicure, a study claims.

This phenomenon, known to doctors as onychomadesis, usually results in the nail falling off long after an initial event (such as an injury) arrests nail growth. A dermatologist who treated the woman says the tiny "doctor fish" (Garra rufa) that feasted on the 20-something's feet somehow triggered onychomadesis - a condition involving "a complete halt in nail plate production".

"This is not uncommon in women with a Greek foot ... who wear high heels and pinpointed shoes", Tosti said, referring to feet whose second toes are longer than the first, like Greek statues.

Lipner noticed that several of the woman's toenails had started separating from the nail beds.

This is the first reported case of a fish pedicure causing the toenails to fall off, so it's not necessarily common.

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.

Lipner would not reveal where the woman got the pedicure, but noted the treatment has been banned in at least 10 states, largely due to health concerns.

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.

"We will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome", she said. But there were special contraindications for fish pedicures that needed to be considered; recent waxing or shaving, certain skin disorders and cuts on the feet or legs could increase one's risk of infection, she said.

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

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