Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

A Woman's Toenails Fell Off After a Fish Pedicure

A Woman's Toenails Fell Off After a Fish Pedicure

If you've been thinking about getting one of those fish pedicures, this might make you think twice: a woman's toenails fell off after getting one.

During a fish pedicure, people immerse their feet in warm water and let doctor fish eat away at dead skin.

A case report in the journal JAMA Dermatology describes how an unnamed woman in her 20s contracted onychomadesis from the pedicure - which causes nails to shred.

Six months into her nail troubles, she visited a dermatologist, who ruled out any known causes of onychomadesis, such as major illness or a side effect of certain medications.

A young woman lost her toenails when they began to separate from her toes.

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However, routine use of the fish for pedicures is another matter, she said, and may often cause more harm than good.

She said the case could be the first documented instance of onychomadesis ever caused by fish. Onychomadesis only temporarily stops nail growth, which usually resumes within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 study of the condition.

The woman's toenails will likely return, but it will take a long time as nails only grow about one millimeter a month on average, Lipner said. The fish used in this treatment are toothless carp fish, which are plant eaters and eat the dead human skin.

Sheri Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology, told Gizmodo: 'While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix'. 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.

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

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Lipner is unaware of any other such cases linked to fish spas, whose popularity seem to have drawn from unfounded claims about their health benefits, according to her report.

One skin expert not involved with the case said the report raises cause for concern.

While Lipner believes that the woman's problems stemmed from the physical impact of the fish biting at the nail, she noted that there have been past reports of infections associated with fish pedicures, too.

Verner-Jeffreys did comment that the fish spa phase didn't last long in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the fish are sometimes recycled from person to person, and a bacterial outbreak among the fish was reported in a 2011 investigation by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate.

Their use has been banned in some states in the USA - at least 10, by Lipner's count. As a result, people may see deep grooves that run horizontally across their nails - known as Beau lines - or they may see larger gaps where there is no nail, the AAD said.

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