A woman in her 20s reportedly lost all of her toenails after allegedly getting a so-called "fishpedicure", a treatment touted by many as rejuvenating for a person's feet.
"I wouldn't say it necessarily poses a significant risk to humans, but it did illustrate that they may be carrying things which are nasty both to fish and humans".
A young woman lost her toenails when they began to separate from her toes.
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. Fish pedicures involve a person placing their feet in a warm tub of water while having small fish nibble on them. Onychomadesis only temporarily stops nail growth, which usually resumes within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 study of the condition. Ruling those causes out, "to my knowledge this is the first case of onychomadesis associated with a fish pedicure", she said.
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".
Dr. Shari R. Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine, wrote a report on the young woman's case in JAMA Dermatology. 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. 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.
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One skin expert not involved with the case said the report raises cause for concern. The most likely culprit, then, was the fish pedicure.
As for Lipner's patient, her nails will grow back, though it'll take time.
She couldn't divulge where her patient got the procedure in order to protect her anonymity but noted the treatments are popular in China.
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. 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.
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.
Several spas in the US and Canada offer fish pedicures but they are controversial.
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