Toenail fungus is one of the scourges of middle age. Although it can and does occur earlier in many people, by the age of 50, many patients confide that they are embarrassed to wear open-toed shoes or go barefoot around the pool.
Until recently, treatment options consisted of topical coatings painted on the nails every day, or oral medications— or, according to some promotional websites, coconut oil, baking soda and vinegar. (This sounds more like the beginning of an interesting recipe than a medical solution.)
All of these treatments (except the food-based one) have side effects and are costly. In addition, they have a poor record of success (including the food-based one) because it’s difficult to penetrate the nail. This is essential because the fungus that causes the condition is protected by the nail.
While the patient was pondering these alternatives, the fungus would have taken a firm hold and worsened, possibly spreading to other nails.
New surveys suggest that more foot and ankle clinics such as ours now prefer laser treatment. Some researchers point out that the nail and the fungi go through various stages of growth and renewal.
Because toenail fungus is a notoriously stubborn problem, treatment methods need to take into account the natural progression of growth.
In our clinics in DeSoto, Sunnyvale or Dallas, we offer our patients several treatment options for onychomycosis (the technical name for toenail fungus). For years, topical application was the gold standard. Topical treatment is not speedy and it doesn’t work for everyone. It requires the patient to paint the toenails at least once a day. Many people— especially men, who are more prone to the condition than women— are not thrilled with the prospect and give up before any results are seen. (Women are advised not to wear nail polish during the treatment period.) More than one in five patients finds that the fungus eventually returns after topical treatment.
Oral medication was developed to attack the fungus by setting up an unfriendly environment in the body. Again, the success rate is less than 100%. And there can be side effects.
A newer alternative, laser light therapy, has the advantage of not destroying healthy tissue. It is not systemic— meaning that it doesn’t affect the liver or other organs. Laser treatment can be repeated as often as necessary, with no risk of side effects.
Laser therapy is already being used to great effect in many areas of medicine. In this case, the laser beam can be aimed to pass through the toenail, leaving the nail intact and targeting the fungus living beneath it.
Laser therapy is also adjustable. The wave length, temperature, pulse rate and other parameters can be modulated according to the severity of the outbreak and its stage. Because the laser passes through the toenail, leaving the nail tissue unharmed and targeting the fungus, it is safe for anyone (except the fungus).
Healthy toenails take time to grow back
The choice of treatment depends on the individual patient. In cases where the damage is very extensive, your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the affected nail. This allows the medication to be applied directly to the fungus.
With any treatment, patience is part of the prescription. As anyone who has ever lost a nail can attest, toenails grow very slowly. While our patients in Sunnyvale, Dallas and DeSoto who’ve been treated with the Cooltouch/Cutera laser device have reported improvement after the first few treatments, it could take six months or longer for healthy nail to fully replace the damaged cuticle..
Fortunately, with laser therapy we do not have to worry about side effects.
If you are ready to try an unconventional approach to toenail fungus (but not ready for one that sounds like salad dressing), why not try laser therapy? Call the clinic and make an appointment to learn more about this exciting technological breakthrough.