Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus: 10 Things you should know!
It has been estimated that nail fungus affects approximately 50% of people over the age of 60. Nearly 40 million Americans have toenail fungus alone. With a rather insidious onset, nail fungus is a medical problem that should be brought to your physician’s attention if you notice any changes in the appearance of your nails (such as discoloration or thickening). Earlier diagnoses have proven to have better success rates for the complete eradication of the fungus. For years, doctors and scientists have worked tirelessly to produce an effective cure for toenail fungus, or onychomycosis. Treatments range from topical solutions and lacquers to oral antifungal medications. In 2008, doctors started using a laser technology that had been around for years prior (the same laser used to treat cataracts) for the treatment of toenail fungus. Here are 10 questions to help better educate you on what toenail fungus is, and what laser treatment of toenail fungus is all about.
1. How does laser treatment for toenail fungus work?
Currently, there are 2 types of laser treatments for toenail fungus only one of which is in use by physicians. The company Patholase, has developed the PinPointe laser that produces high energy UV radiation to eliminate fungus under the nail bed of the toe. Results with this method have proven effective in many podiatrists’ offices around the country but is still considered an “off-label” use for the laser as it is used for other medical purposes. The other laser treatment method was produced by the company Nomir Medical Technologies called the Neovon Laser which uses two different wavelengths of near infrared light. The Neovon laser is currently in clinical trials and is projected to produce better outcomes than the Pinpointe laser. Both lasers work by producing beams from a pen-like device held by the doctor over the nail that sends penetrating beams through the nail to the fungus.
2. Will I see instant results with laser treatment for my toenail fungus?
While the laser treatment does kill the fungus instantly, the results of the treatment are typically seen approximately 9 months after the treatment when the infected nail has been replaced by newly grown, healthy nail.
3. Are there other options besides laser treatment for toenail fungus?
Topical creams are still prescribed by doctors as well as oral antifungal medications. The topical creams have proven effective in only 8% of cases. Oral anti-fungals, such as Lamisil are often more effective than topical treatments, but can be harmful to the liver over prolonged usage and blood draws are typical to prevent toxicity.
4. Is laser treatment for toenail fungus safe?
Laser treatment is safe as well as painless. The laser penetrates the nail bed to the level at which the fungus lives and reproduces.
5. Is laser treatment for toenail fungus covered under insurance?
Currently, insurance does not cover laser treatment for nail fungus as it is considered a cosmetic procedure.
6. Can I walk after the treatment?
Yes, the painless procedure allows patients to walk out of the office immediately after treatment.
7. How much does the laser treatment cost?
Depending on the doctor and the location, laser nail treatments average about $750 to $1200.
8. What are the side effects of laser treatment for toenail fungus?
There are no known side effects to laser nail treatment.
9. What are the risk factors for toenail fungus?
Risk factors for toenail fungus include increasing age, family history, diabetes, poor health, communal bathing, trauma, and depressed immunity (HIV, drug induced).
10. What can I do to prevent toenail fungus?
Keep nails dry, clean, and short. Wear moisture-wicking socks. Use antifungal medications. Avoid going barefoot in public places. Wash your hands after touching an infected nail.