Fish pedicure causes woman to lose her toenails: doctor

A woman’s toenails started falling off when she contracted a disease when getting a fish pedicure, according to a doctor’s report published Tuesday.

The bizarre 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.

A case report in the journal JAMA Dermatology describes how an unnamed woman in her 20s contracted onychomadesis from the pedicure – which causes nails to shred.

Months after her nails stopped growing and fell off, the woman went to visit her dermatologist, who ruled out other known causes of onychomadesis, including major illness or side effects from medications.

“While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix,” the woman’s treating doctor, Dr. Sheri Lipner, told Gizmodo.

Lipner, who is an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University’s Weill Cornell Medicine, said this would be the first-ever documented case of the disease being caused by a fish pedicure.

She couldn’t divulge where her patient got the procedure in order to protect her anonymity but noted the treatments are popular in China.

The beauty craze has been banned in 10 US states – including New York – because of health concerns.

“I do not recommend fish pedicures for any medical or aesthetic purpose,” Lipner said. “In addition to onychomadesis, there are also serious infections associated with fish pedicures.”

Lipner said the woman’s nails may grow back – but it’ll take as long as 18 months.

“We will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome,” she said.

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