Embarrassed to wear sandals or flip-flops because of yellowing, crusty toenails? Toenail fungus is extremely common, and it can be unsightly. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer silently. Treatment options exist and it’s simpler than ever to get rid of that fungus for good. Laser treatment for toenail fungus is one of the most promising options out there, but is it right for you? We’ll explore that and more below.
Onychomycosis: What Is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus, properly called onychomycosis, is a type of fungus that thrives in damp, dark places. It feeds on keratin, the material that comprises your toenails and fingernails (and hair and eyelashes, for that matter). It’s incredibly easy to catch and spread, as well. It causes the nail to thicken and yellow, become distorted, and eventually start to crumble away. It can also spread to other toenails and even to other people.
Toenail Fungus Infection Symptoms
Toenail fungus infections come with several easily identifiable symptoms, including:
- Yellowing of the nail
- White spots and streaks
- Thickening and distortion of the nail
- Nails that crumble or brittle
- Nail separating from the nail bed
How Do You Treat Toenail Fungal Infections?
It’s important to understand that a toenail fungus infection will not go away on its own. It must be medically treated. And until it is successfully treated, you are contagious and can spread the fungus to others. You can spread the fungus through direct contact, but it can also spread by indirect contact.
In the past, medications were used, including oral medication like antibiotics that targeted the fungus under the nails. Topical medications offered limited benefits because of the difficulty in penetrating the nail to get at the infection, and oral antifungal medications required very long doses that disrupted the body’s microbiome.
A new option is available today. Laser therapy for toenail fungus offers a painless way to get right at the heart of the infection, without the need for topical treatments or long antibiotic regimens.
Currently, there are two types of laser devices – blue light lasers and carbon-dioxide lasers (CO2)- both offer proven benefits when used to treat toenail fungus infections. A clinical study conducted in 2016 found that patients treated with these technologies showed clear nails three and six months after treatment. Additional studies showed a high success rate and a 91% improvement in symptoms after six months.
How Does Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus Work?
A powerful laser is directed at the toenail and penetrates through the nail to reach the fungal infection underneath. It destroys the fungus responsible for the infection and helps return your nails to their normal color and thickness. Note that you will likely need at least two treatments and results are not visible until at least two months after the treatment. Most patients require at least one year for their nails to fully regrow without blemishes. The National Library of Medicine has further reading on the efficacy of laser treament using different devices.
Are You a Good Candidate for Laser Toenail Fungus Treatment?
The best way to determine if you’re a good candidate for this treatment is to have a consultation with a board-certified podiatrist. During the consultation, the doctor will examine your infection and discuss your goals and what to expect from the treatment.