Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Medical | By

Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails: doctor

Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails: doctor

While it's not clear the flesh-nibbling fish caused it, experts have warned in the past that fish pedicures may carry a risk of infection.

In a fish pedicure, a client's feet are immersed into tanks filled with small fish called Garra rufa or "doctor fish".

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.

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.

"Unfortunately the water is sometimes contaminated with bacteria and other pathogens and the fish themselves can do more damage than good", Day said.

"Being omnivores", the fish "will eat human skin", wrote case report author Dr. Shari Lipner, a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Fish pedicures have boomed since the first USA 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.

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 USA, but they remain popular in China.


Lipner noticed that several of the woman's toenails had started separating from the nail beds.

The woman's toenails will likely return, but it will take a long time as nails only grow about one millimeter a month on average, Lipner said. It could be due to lingering microbes from whomever's feet were there last, versus the fish itself. Dr. Lipner continued that her patient's case could be the first incident where onychomadesis occurred due to a fish pedicure.

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. Fish were found with bulging eyes, many hemmorhaging around the gills and mouth.

"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", he added.

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

Despite the name, "fish pedicures do not meet the legal definition of a pedicure", the CDC says.

While Garra rufa have been investigated as a treatment for psoriasis - though not in the context of a nail salon - Lipner stressed that this is not standard medical practice.

Like this: