As doctors ruled out nail disorders or injury as the culprit, the 20-something woman revealed she had gone for a fish pedicure months before she noticed her toenails were beginning to separate from her toes and fall off. However, although interest may have dwindled down as of now, the spa ritual of submerging your feet into a pool of water as fish start to nibble away the dead and dry skin on that area is still pretty popular.
Writing in the journal JAMA Dermatology, she explained that the freaky beauty ritual first gained traction after people noticed that wild populations of the toothless fish - a member of the carp family native to Turkey - liked to nibble on human skin, and for whatever reason, preferred munching on unsightly psoriasis plaques more than normal tissue. It is said to improve blood circulation, stimulate new skin cells and is often used as a medical treatment for conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and warts.
The woman visited her dermatologist after her months of her toenails falling off. Dr. Lipner was convinced that her patient has no other previous health issues that would explain what happened with her toenails.
Fish pedicures are a freakish beauty trends which has been gaining popularity.
"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.
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While this may be the first case of onychomadesis associated with fish pedicures, dermatologists note that there are some serious hygienic risks involved in the treatment. Dr. Lipner continued that her patient's case could be the first incident where onychomadesis occurred due to a fish pedicure. Animal rights groups say the pedicures are a form of animal cruelty, while at least 10 USA states have banned fish pedicures over concerns about bacteria in the water. While experts still don't know exactly how fish pedicure-borne infections happen, it could be due to lingering bacteria from the last person to put their food it in the fish tank.
In 2011, an investigation by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate found a bacterial outbreak among thousands of these fish, which had been transported from Indonesia to United Kingdom pedicure spas.
There were reports of a patient with a Staphylococcus aureus infection after a fish pedicure.
"I wouldn't say it necessarily poses a significant risk to humans, but it did illustrate that they may be carrying things which are nasty both to fish and humans".
Experts say they're unsure how infections might be spread through fish pedicures.
As for the woman, her nails will likely return, but not for a long time. Toenails only grow one millimeter a month on average, while an entire nail can take as long as 18 months to be replaced. "Therefore, we will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome", she said.