A young woman, who is believed to be from New York, went for a fish pedicure some six months ago and now her toes are reportedly falling out.
The woman, who remains unidentified, went to a spa and dipped her feet in a tub of water that was full of small fish known as Garra rufa or “doctor fish.” Little did she know that instead of making her feet clean the treatment would end up being a disturbing medical mystery.
After the pedicure, over a period of several months, the woman’s toenails stopped growing and eventually began falling off.
The case came to light after the woman’s doctor published a report in JAMA Dermatology – a peer review journal. The condition in dermatological terms is known as onychomadesis, in which a person’s nails start coming off
“I think that this is probably more common than we think,” said the report's author, Dr. Shari R. Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the nail division.
“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 added.
Lipner added although there is no definite way to determine that the fish pedicure was the reason behind the abnormal toenails fall, she is pretty sure it is what caused the condition. That is because the woman didn’t have any other medical problems that could attribute to the situation.
The doctor also shared past reports where fish pedicures resulted in infections.
Although fish pedicures are becoming extremely popular, there is always a risk of infection involved. According to health experts, fish spas are open to infections because the tubs may not be properly cleaned between uses.
Moreover, certain types of skin disorders, cuts on the feet or legs and recent waxing or shaving can also increase the risk infections.
Apart from skin infections, fish spas are also accused of spreading blood borne infections that include, HIV and hepatitis C. For instance if a person infected with such a disease comes for a fish pedicure and by any chance they bleed in the water, it will automatically get infected and become dangerous for others.
After mounting concerns from health experts, fish pedicures have been banned in 10 U.S. states but they continue to be carried out in the United Kingdom.
However, according to David Verner-Jeffreys, a senior microbiologist at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the U.K., it is becoming unpopular steadily.
“It was a bit of a craze people got excited about, and then they moved on to the next thing. 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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