Published: Thu, July 05, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Woman gets fish pedicure which causes her toenails to fall out

Woman gets fish pedicure which causes her toenails to fall out

The report, published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, describes a woman in her 20s who is believed to have contracted an infection called onychomadesis from a fish pedicure.

Though it does not meet the legal definition of a pedicure, the practice of sticking your feet into a tub filled with diminutive omnivorous fish from the species Garra rufa has been a popular spa service worldwide for more than a decade, according to Dr Lipner. It wasn't until later on that she noticed her nails beginning to shed.

"While the exact mechanism is unknown, it is likely that direct trauma caused by fish biting multiple nail units causes a cessation in nail plate production", Lipner writes. Although often due to injury, it has been linked to infections, as well as certain medications and autoimmune disorders.

She wasn't in pain, but there appeared to be breaks in her toenails, so that the bottom part of her nails separated from the top part. But this is the first case of onychomadesis tied to a fish pedicure, the new report said.

It's thought that the woman will not be toenail-free forever.

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It could take a year or longer for toenails to grow back.

There were reports of a patient with a Staphylococcus aureus infection after a fish pedicure.

But while there's no way to know for sure what caused the patient's toenail issues, there have been some concerns about fish pedicures in the past.

The woman visited her dermatologist after her months of her toenails falling off. "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". It could be due to lingering microbes from whomever's feet were there last, versus the fish itself.

This is not the first time that fish spas have been known to cause problems as previously, there were reports of infections being spread through fish pedicures too.

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In the United Kingdom, "the salons themselves were really popular here; they sprung up very rapidly", said Amanda Walsh, a senior scientist with the Emerging Infections and Zoonoses team of Public Health England. In 2011, the Vancouver Island Health Authority also banned it, saying that there were bacterial risks because the fish could not be sterilized.

Their recommendations dealt with hygiene and infection control, "as would be required for other types of beauty salons".

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

And though proponents of fish pedicures have argued they can properly sanitise the fish and tubs between uses, research has shown that disease-causing bacteria can be readily found in both the tubs and fish used in these spas.

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