If you’re suffering from psoriasis, you’d probably accept just about any treatment possible to do away with the constant itching and discolored skin. Chances are you’ve even given a number of options a fair shake in the past for some hope of relief. However, there’s probably at least one treatment you’ve never tried before: fish therapy. Though taking fish oil has long been advised, that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re referring to is completely different.
What Is Fish Therapy
Fish therapy for psoriasis is actually fairly literal. The methodology refers to patients with psoriasis sitting in shallow pools filled with fish that then come and peck away at the exterior condition. It’s almost like a living, breathing exfoliate working over your skin while you simply sit in the pool and allow it to happen.
The type of fish used for this treatment are highly specialized. While they’re referred to as Doctor Fish, given their current profession, their scientific name is Garra rufa. They’re members of the minnow and carp family found in, amongst other places, Turkey. They are especially fond of hot springs like those found in the Central Anatolia region of that country.
Aside from hot springs, you can usually find doctor fish at the bottom of various saltwater bodies. There, these fish attach their mouths to rocks, which allows them to feed on plankton. This type of diet is tough to live on in the hot springs, though, where plankton is quite scarce. Instead, they nourish themselves by feasting on the skin scales of bathers who use the spring.
It should be noted that doctor fish will feed on any skin cells they come across. So a perfectly healthy person is just as likely to receive a skin treatment in these hot springs as someone suffering from psoriasis.
However, people have observed that doctor fish definitely prefer someone with the skin disease over others. Though it could be because they simply take their profession seriously, it more than likely has to do with the fact that psoriasis plaques provide them with more scales to eat.
The science is still out on how much these fish can actually do where psoriasis is concerned. However, anecdotal evidence certainly seems to suggest that doctor fish are a possible treatment. As far as anyone can tell, it’s simply because these fish feed on psoriasis lesions, thus ridding the body of them.
A Recent Study
A pilot study was finally done recently to see just how much of an effect doctor fish were having on people with psoriasis. The study involved 67 people who were suffering from severe chronic plaque psoriasis. Researchers exposed them to two hour bathes every day for three weeks. Each bathtub was filled with between 250 and 400 doctor fish. After the baths were done, each participant spent another three to five minutes in front of a UV light.
After the three week study concluded, 72% of those who partook in the study showed a reduction in the severity of their symptoms according to the physician who evaluated them. However, greater than 87% of the participants reported being happy with how the therapy went. Plus, the doctor fish and UV rays caused no major side effects.
Of course, keep in mind that we don’t know how much of this has to do with the doctor fish and how much of it was because of the UV rays. Furthermore, there was no control group, which means this whole thing could have also just been one great big placebo effect.
Should You Try Doctor Fish?
One thing the study did definitely show is that doctor fish don’t seem to cause any harm. However, keep in mind that they were used in sterile environments. By submitting yourself to these fish in the wild, you could be opening yourself up to issues. Saltwater, for example, makes it easy for bacterial pathogens to thrive. Were they to find their way into an open wound on you, an infection would no doubt follow.
Plus, unless you live in Turkey or the other places where hundreds of doctor fish congregate, you’ll need to spend a lot of money on the experience. Instead, another option is to use an exfoliating moisturizer. Try something like alpha or beta hydroxyl acids. Tar-based products, lactic acid or salicylic acid are god examples of products that will gently remove topical scales caused by psoriasis much like these fish apparently do. These treatments will cost a lot less and also don’t come with the risks associated with saltwater that we mentioned earlier.
So even if you think you’ve tried all the possibilities for treating your psoriasis, you’ve probably missed at least one very interesting version. As doctor fish have been receiving more and more mainstream popularity over the years, it’s only a matter of time before we know whether or not this therapy makes sense for large numbers of people.