The woman's toenails will likely return, but it will take a long time as nails only grow about one millimeter a month on average.
A woman began to lose her toenails after a "fishpedicure", a ticklish spa craze popular in China and the United States, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA Dermatology.
In a fish pedicure, a client's feet are immersed into tanks filled with small fish called Garra rufa or "doctor fish". Essentially, the fish in the tub are actually starved so they will feed on your dead skin! The patient had no other medical history that she could link to her abnormal toenails.
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.
Fish pedicures utilize the skin-eating talents of Garra rufa fish.
"First, tubs and fish can not be adequately sanitized between people", Lipner said, "with the same fish typically reused for several persons".
Lipner diagnosed onychomadesis - a not-uncommon condition that's most often linked to underlying major illness or certain medications.
The case, as far as Lipner knows, would be the first documented instance of onychomadesis ever caused by fish.
"I do not recommend fish pedicures for any medical or aesthetic goal", she told Gizmodo. In the report she wrote it's "likely" that fish biting the tissue around the nails caused "direct trauma", halting nail production.
Fish pedicures may be a fun way to exfoliate rough heels, but experts are now warning that the procedure may pose an infection risk.
But other experts aren't convinced that the pedicure is to blame.
"Tubs and fish can not be adequately sanitized between people, and the same fish are typically reused for successive persons", Lipner wrote in the report. It's a typical byproduct of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a viral infection common in children that appears as a rash on the hands and feet, so it's unclear how the infection was spread through the fish pedicure.
There were reports of a patient with a Staphylococcus aureus infection after a fish pedicure.
Fish pedicures might cause infections. Additionally, the fish are sometimes recycled from person to person, and a bacterial outbreak among the fish was reported in a 2011 investigation by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate.
But that risk can't be "completely excluded", the report added.
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