Woman Tied to Odd Toenail Problem After Having ‘Fish Pedicure’

Fish pedicures are a trending rage nowadays in most health spas. It is a cool and tickly way to exfoliate your feet and get all the dead skin removed. It is especially good for cracked heels and toe areas. Done correctly and in hygienic conditions, it could also be a treatment for various skin infections affecting the feet. But what people don’t really know is that such treatments can also be a big health risk as one New York woman found out to her dismay. Like many who had heard about the famous and popular fish pedicure, she too decided to go for one and that ended up not to her liking.


1The fish pedicure is now being regarded as super risky

The trendy fish pedicure is now being regarded as super risky after a 20-year-old woman started losing her toenails. Diagnosed with a strange skin infection, her condition was also highlighted in the Journal JAMA Dermatology.

The fish pedicure

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2Fish pedicures aren’t as beneficial as you think

Fish pedicures are supposed to be beneficial. To give a quick rundown, it involves a person putting their feet in a basin of water where tiny Garra Rufa fish also called doctor fish nibble away at the dead skin. The practice is legal and has been shown by research to be effective in conditions of psoriasis where the skin heat the infected skin and do not touch the healthy skin.

Fish pedicures

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3Banned in ten states of the US

However, many health officials are now declaring fish pedicures to be extremely unsanitary and currently, the practice is banned in 10 states of the US. Now coming to the woman who is just 20 years old. She (name undisclosed) began suffering from various toenail problems for six months following a fish pedicure.

Banned in ten states of the US

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4Her toenails started falling off

All common problems were ruled out and only when she had revealed that she had undergone a fish pedicure that doctors realized the actual cause of the problem. The woman also began losing her toenails because she was diagnosed with a condition called onychomadesis. This is a condition where the nail separates from the tissue under the nail halting its growth.

Toenails started falling off

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5She thought she would get nice fresh smelling feet

People claim that fish pedicures give you fresh, nice smelling feet and that’s why she may have decided to go in for one. What she didn’t realize is that her toenails acquired an infection and began to fall off.

Fish pedicure procedure

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6Why it happened

Although she experienced no pain, there were clear breaks in her toenails where the bottom part of her nails or nail matrix began to separate. This area produces cells for the nail to grow. According to the American Academy of Dermatology , an infection could cause this area to stop growing. This then results in stopping the growth of nails.

Falling nails

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7She developed beau lines

The condition causes large gaps where there is no nail. It could also reveal deep grooves running horizontally across the nail called beau lines. The problem escalates where the nails eventually fall off.

Beau lines in nails

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8The nail can sometimes regrow after 12 weeks

Those afflicted with onychomadesis can also find a sudden spurt in the regrowth of the nail within 12 weeks of experiencing the problem. This was reported by a medical Journal Cutis in 2017.

Nail can sometimes regrow

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9The condition can also be caused by other factors

Onychomadesis can be caused by several factors like infections, autoimmune disorders, hereditary conditions, and also various medications. In this woman’s case, it was the unhygienic fish pedicure that caused it.

Toenail fungus

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10Garra Fish usually eat plankton

The Garra fish are usually found in the Middle East and feed on plankton. In the absence of plankton, they wouldn’t mind eating dead human skin. Perhaps it may not be the Garra fish at all that might have caused her problem but the unsanitary conditions of the spa.

Garra Fish

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11There are health risks involved

The fish pedicure gained popularity 10 years ago but now there are many risks involved and skin infection is the biggest of them. Obviously, why would anyone want to dip their feet in water which may carry skin cells of people who may be infected with various skin infections that could be transmitted?

Health risks of fish pedicure

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12Cleaning between sessions is impossible

It isn’t possible to clean tubs containing fish especially in between use because that would be impractical. Neither can the fish be sanitized for every session Thus according to CDC, (Centre for control and disease prevention) such factors make the fish pedicure a high-risk procedure. People are also at risk of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

Woman having fish pedicure

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13Incidents in the UK

In 2012, a huge shipment of Garra Rufa fish was intercepted by the UK which was tested and found to be carrying several harmful bacteria that included Streptococcus agallactiae and Vibrio vulnificus that has the potential to cause bad skin infections. In 2014, Italian researchers also reported a similar case where a person who underwent a fish pedicure developed severe foot infection that was caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus bacterium.

Incidents in the UK

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14Some spas may use other fish

According to the CDC, there is also the possibility of spas not using actual Garra Rufus fish but using a different breed called the Chinese Chinchin that are passed off as Garra fish. The difference between the two breeds is that the Chinchin have teeth and draw blood.

Some spas may use other fish

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15Avoid such practices is the best way to prevent infection

The report in the case of the 20-year-old woman says “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,.” It isn’t very clear how such fish could cause onychomadesis but experts feel it could have been due to the trauma on the toenail because of the constant nibbling on multiple nails which could have given her the condition. Be safe, avoid the so-called beneficial fish pedicure.

Fish pedicure infections

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