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Fish Pedicures Leaving Your Toenails Fishy -- What Can You Do?

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

Fish pedicures, wildly popular in Europe and Asia, are gaining in popularity here in the United States. Over the past decade, fish spas are popping up across the country, and consumers are definitely intrigued. But waders beware! Before jumping in, there's a few things you should know.

Are Smooth Feet Worth Your Toenails?

Fish pedicure patrons soak their feet in tubs of water that contain hundreds of tiny Garra rufa fish, which nibble away the dead skin, smoothing out rough patches typically found around the heel and toes. Some patrons have notice that about six months after the pedicure, their toenails began shedding away from their toes, a condition called onychoadesis. For years, a solid link between the two couldn't be proven. But now there is medical proof to back that claim in a recent report published in JAMA Dermatology.

According to Dr. Shari R. Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the nail division, "I think that this is probably more common than we think ... 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."

Other Fishy Issues From Flesh-Eating Fish

There have been other problems associated with fish pedicures besides nail shedding.

  • Because the fish live in pedicure tubs, the tubs cannot be adequately cleaned between customers, which may spread disease.
  • The fish themselves cannot be disinfected between "feedings", thereby also increasing the risk of spreading disease.
  • Whereas the Garra rufa fish do not have teeth, sometimes spas mistakenly use fish that do. In those cases, open wounds result, and any bacteria in the soaking water can then seep into the persons body through the foot and cause all sorts of problems, including Staph infections.
  • Garra rufa fish are not native to the U.S. and therefore can pose a threat to native plant and animal life if they are released into the wild, including being flushed down the drain.
  • The fish must be starved in order to be encouraged to eat the skin, which is not their regular diet. This might be considered animal cruelty, and there are animal cruelty laws on the books in every state.

If you have recently had a fish pedicure and are experiencing toenail shedding or other foot infections, contact a local personal injury attorney that can review the facts of your case, and potentially win an award to compensate you for your troubles.

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