The name ichthyotherapy comes from the Greek name for fish “Ichthys” and can be defined as the use of fresh water or marine organisms, like garra rufa fish, as agents of skin wound and condition cleansing. Ichthyotherapy using garra rufa fish has been shown to be effective with patients suffering from various skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, corns and scabies.

The garra rufa fish live in water that does not produce enough nutrients so with their voracious appetite they feed well on dead scabby skin of psoriasis sufferers. These garra rufa fish will not nibble their healthy skin which will be left to grow. The saliva in the mouths of the garra rufa fish is the vital element in the treatment. In addition, the selenium- rich waters of the spa are also helpful in the treatment of psoriasis too.

However, this type of treatment can provide temporary relief only and it is not a cure for the skin disorders. It is reported by psoriasis patients that it does help and thus the fish spa has sprouted in many countries like Japan, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Between 2002 and 2004, a pilot study on the effectiveness of the garra rufa fish as a psoriasis treatment was carried out at an outpatient treatment facility in Austria. Head researcher prof. M. Grassberger and prof. W. Hoch retrospectively analyzed 67 patients diagnosed with psoriasis who underwent 3 weeks of ichthyotherapy.

The main outcome measures are as follows:

  • Of the 67 patients studied, 91% of the patients reported substantial satisfaction with the treatment.
  • A total of 87.5% of the patients reported a more favorable outcome with ichthyotherapy, when asked to compare ichthyotherapy to other previously tried therapies.
  • 65% percent stated that after the relapse their symptoms were less severe than before treatment. There were no significant adverse events.
  • The benefit demonstrated in this study along with the favorable safety profile suggests that ichthyotherapy could provide a viable treatment option for patients with psoriasis

This study evaluates the efficacy and safety of ichthyotherapy in combination with short-term ultraviolet A sunbed radiation in the treatment of psoriasis under controlled conditions.

The pilot study was published in the scientific Oxford-Journal “Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” in December 2006.

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