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Woman's 'Fish Pedicure' Tied to Odd Toenail Problem
04 July 2018, 07:29 | Silvia Roy
Tiny fish called Garra rufa eat dead human skin making for a sort of pedicure
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. If you don't know, the fishpedicure is just like it sounds.
The weird 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. According to an American Medical Association report, a woman had this done, then shed her toenails. Dr. Lipner was convinced that her patient has no other previous health issues that would explain what happened with her toenails.
Fish pedicures may be a fun way to exfoliate rough heels, but experts are now warning that the procedure may pose an infection risk. These fish typically eat plankton, but if plankton aren't available, they will eat dead human skin.
Tosti, a former president of the European Nail Society, said the woman's problem could be caused by something much more mundane: overlapping toes in a certain type of shoe.
"While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix", Sheri Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University's Weill Cornell Medicine and the woman's doctor, told the website.
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.
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.
Lipner said the woman's nails may grow back - but it'll take as long as 18 months.
The case, as far as Lipner knows, would be the first documented instance of onychomadesis ever caused by fish. In addition, the fish themselves can not be sanitized between each customer's pedicure session, the CDC says.
"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.
Indeed, in 2012, researchers in the United Kingdom intercepted shipments of Garra rufa fish bound for U.K. spas and tested them for bacteria. 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.
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