Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails: doctor

Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails: doctor

In a case report published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Dermatology, Dr. Shari Lipner from Weill Cornell Medicine describes the case of a patient in her 20s who arrived in her office saying she had been having problems with her toenails for the last six months.

Earlier this year, a young woman from NY came to the dermatologists at Weill Cornell Medicine hospital because six of her toenails had begun detaching from her foot for no apparent reason six months prior. Dr. Lipner was convinced that her patient has no other previous health issues that would explain what happened with her toenails.

"I do not recommend fish pedicures for any medical or aesthetic objective", Lipner said. A woman's toenails stopped growing after she received a fish pedicure, a study claims.

The report's author said the woman had no other medical history that could be linked to her condition.

Fish pedicures involve having small fish nibble on a person's feet while they soak in a tub of warm or room temperature water. This nail shedding is called onychomadesis, and it usually results in the nail falling off after an injury stops nail growth.

"We don't see the [nail] shedding until months after the event, so I think it's hard for patients and physicians - especially if they're not even aware that fish pedicures can do this - to make that connection", she said. These fish will eat dead human skin when no plankton are around, so they leave your feet feeling soft and smooth.

Sheri Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology, told Gizmodo: 'While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix'.


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

The case, as far as Lipner knows, would be the first documented instance of onychomadesis ever caused by fish. The most likely culprit, then, was the fish pedicure.

For the sake of protecting her patient's anonymity, Lipner can't reveal where the woman got her 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. And though proponents of fish pedicures have argued they can properly sanitise the fish and tubs between uses, research has shown that disease-causing bacteria can be readily found in both the tubs and fish used in these spas.

The beauty craze has been banned in 10 USA states - including NY - because of health concerns.

"We did have some concerns about the welfare of these animals being transported around the world, often by people with limited experience", he said.

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