Fish pedicures or fish spas have increased in popularity for the last few years even though they have been banned in many states because of animal welfare and health concerns.
But business is still booming in Thailand and some people are losing body parts because of it.
One traveler is still paying the terrible price for her decision to visit a fish spa many years ago.
Victoria Curthoy from Perth, Australia was only 17 when she cut open her toe on broken glass in 2006. She had developed a bone infection that forced doctors to amputate the top half of her big toe.
She seemed to be well until four years later.
In 2010, she went to Thailand and visited a fish spa. A fish-pedi involves soaking your feet and lower legs in a tank filled with Garra rufa fish, also known as the doctor fish.
Doctor fish are freshwater fish that eat dead skin on your legs and feet, making them useful in pedicures.
Speaking about her experience, Victoria told Daily Mail: “When I was in Thailand I decided to use a fish spa. I thought nothing of it as I’d watched the owner set up the system and it looked very clean, but how wrong I was.”
As soon as she got back from her trip, she started getting bouts of illness. Her doctors also couldn’t explain what was going on and it took a year before her doctors made a correct diagnosis.
Victoria was diagnosed with Osteomyelitis, a rare and severe infection of the bones.
“I ended up getting another bone infection in my big toe and it took doctors over a year to figure out what type of bug I had. By the time they’d realised what it was, my entire toe bone had been eaten away and I’d been suffering from sickness the whole time.”
It turned out that water from the fish spa had penetrated into her old surgical would from her amputation in 2006.
After another year, doctors amputated the rest of her large toe. “They eventually decided to take the big toe off completely. I felt relieved I could go back to my life without being sick all the time.”
But after another year, they discovered another infection. “This time, the doctors took the second toe and left me with three toes. I was healthy for another two years, I thought I was very lucky to still have my foot and carried on with my life. But then I started to get sick again.”
She spent her mornings throwing up and having fever but doctors could not pinpoint an infection.
Her podiatrist then ordered for blood samples and it was found that Victoria was suffering from a third bone-infection. She was rushed into surgery and had her third and fourth toes removed in 2016.
She only had one toe left. But doctors finally took her pinky toe in 2017 when they discovered another bone infection.
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