A New York woman lost her toenails after developing a condition believed to have been brought on by a fish pedicure, according to the dermatologist who treated the issue.
The unnamed woman in her 20s went to the doctor after suffering for six months from abnormal toenails, Dr. Shari Lipner of Weill Cornell Medicine wrote in a case report published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
It was quickly determined that the woman was suffering from onychomadesis, a condition in which the toe sheds nails after the nail matrix, the part of the nail bed beneath the nail that contains nerves, lymph and blood vessels, has been damaged.
“She denied pain, previous trauma, or running or walking on paved road,” Lipner wrote. “She had no family history of nail disorders, no medical problems, no history of major illness or high fever, and no vaccinations or use of medications in the past year.”
But the woman said before the problems with her nails began after she had a fish pedicure.
“While the exact mechanism is unknown, it is likely that direct trauma caused by fish biting multiple nail units causes a cessation in nail plate production,” Lipner wrote. “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.”
Now a trendy beauty treatment, fish pedicures involve submersing feet into a tub of water filled with small fish known as “doctor fish."
The small, toothless omnivores will eat human skin when insufficient plant sources exist, which has been suggested to improve the condition and look of a person’s feet.
Lipner wrote that those claims are “unfounded” and “there are a number of inherent risks” associated with the pedicures.
“Tubs and fish cannot be adequately sanitized between people, and the same fish are typically reused for successive persons,” she wrote. “Thus, there are concerns of transmitting infections between people undergoing these pedicures.”
Fish pedicures have been banned in at least 10 states in the U.S.
It could take a year or longer for toenails to grow back.