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A Woman's Toenails Fell Off After a Fish Pedicure

04 July 2018

A New York City woman who got a trendy "fish pedicure" may have lost a little more than the dead skin on her feet - she may have lost her toenails, too. According to an American Medical Association report, a woman had this done, then shed her toenails.

The woman, in her 20s, went to the doctor after noticing that her toenails looked abnormal - a problem she'd had for about six months, the report said.

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.

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. Onychomadesis only temporarily stops nail growth, which usually resumes within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 study of the condition.

Writing in the journal JAMA Dermatology, she explained that the weird beauty ritual first gained traction after people noticed that wild populations of the toothless fish - a member of the carp family native to Turkey - liked to nibble on human skin, and for whatever reason, preferred munching on unsightly psoriasis plaques more than normal tissue.

"While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix", the woman's treating doctor, Dr. Sheri Lipner, told Gizmodo. 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 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.

As for Lipner's patient, her nails will grow back, though it'll take time. Spas can also mistake the toothy chinchin fish, which draws blood, for the doctor fish, further increasing the risk of infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

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

"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", the report concludes.

Dr. Lipner also advises people against getting a fish pedicure, as the practice has been banned in 10 states in America due to health concerns.

In the United Kingdom, an investigation was conducted by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate discovered bacteria outbreak among the fish used in these spas. 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.

A Woman's Toenails Fell Off After a Fish Pedicure