'Fish pedicure' caused one woman's toenails to stop growing

Six of the woman's toenails began to look abnormal in the months after a fish pedicure. This image appears in her case report

A study released Tuesday details the case of a woman whose toenails fell off after she had a fish pedicure.

Fish pedicures have boomed since the first US fish spa opened in Virginia in 2008, Lipner claims in the paper, due to what she calls "unfounded claims" that the treatment leaves feet smoother and less pungent, removes bacteria and fungus and increases circulation.

Fish pedicures involve having small fish nibble on a person's feet while they soak in a tub of warm or room temperature water.

It's an unusual beauty treatment meant to rejuvenate the skin on your foot, but a medical professional is warning the public to steer away from "fish pedicures" after a woman lost her toenails from the procedure. Despite being in good health with no prior history of nail disorders, some of her toenails showed a separation and gradual disappearance of the underlying nail bed.

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.

"Being omnivores, when there are insufficient plant sources, they will eat human skin", Shari Lipner, assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University's Weill Cornell Medicine and report's author wrote. However, people with onychomadesis usually experience spontaneous regrowth of their nail within 12 weeks, according to a 2017 report in the journal Cutis.

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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.

As for the woman, her nails will likely return, but not for a long 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. The most likely culprit, then, was the fish pedicure.

One skin expert not involved with the case said the report raises cause for concern. A woman's toenails stopped growing after she received a fish pedicure, a study claims.

The report doesn't specify where the woman had her pedicure, for the sake of protecting her anonymity, but it's worth noting that the pedicures have been banned in many states in the U.S., but they remain popular in China. 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. 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.

Verner-Jeffreys did comment that the fish spa phase didn't last long in the United Kingdom.

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