If you are one of the many who are affected by toenail fungus (onychomycosis), you already know that options for treatment are limited. You can live with it, as most people do, knowing it will probably spread to other nails. You can paint something on the nail each night, knowing the toenail is like a protective shield, sheltering the little buggers that live underneath. You can take an oral medication, knowing it may make you sick and in rare cases has been associated with liver problems.
And in spite of all these side effects, you know that the cure rate is low. Last year, a new topical treatment made the headlines. Patients who saw it advertised on TV were shocked when they learned the price. And even then, the success rate was estimated to be about 15%.
While we have had some success with topical treatments, they leave much to be desired. That’s why we’re excited about laser therapy.
We see many patients, and many afflicted toenails, in our clinics in DeSoto, Sunnyvale or Dallas. The procedure we feel has the most potential for curing this blight is laser treatment. Laser light therapy has the advantage of not killing healthy tissue even as it ‘cooks’ the fungus. It is not systemic— meaning that it doesn’t affect the liver or other organs. It can be repeated as often as the patient desires, with no side effects or worsening of the symptoms.
For patients— mostly males— affected with onchymycosis, NOT having to paint the entire toenail (surface, surrounding area and underneath as much as possible) every night for nearly a year could be reason enough to check out laser therapy. Oh, and the fact that the fungus comes back in 22% of patients treated with topical antifungal medications.
Laser therapy is already being used to great effect in many areas of medicine. In this case, the laser beam can be directed to pass through the toenail, leaving the nail intact and targeting the fungus living beneath it.
One promising aspect of pulsed laser therapy is that it lends itself to adaptation. In other words, wavelength, temperature, pulse rate and other parameters can be fine-tuned. In the case of toenail fungus, the laser passes through the toenail, leaving the tissue unharmed, and targets the fungus beneath it. Laser therapy also boasts a huge advantage because it poses no danger to the patient.
What You Can Do to Prevent It
If you have toenail fungus, we don’t need to remind you what it looks like. It produces cracked, yellowing, thickened nails. The nails may be warped or oddly shaped. They may break off and not grow to a normal length.
Here are some recommendations for prevention, although there is no guarantee they’ll be effective.
- Treat fungus early. See your foot and ankle doctor at the first sign of toenail disease.
- Wear clean, cotton socks and change them frequently. Don’t wear socks that won’t dry.
- Wear sandals or open shoes when possible. Keep your feet clean and dry, washing with soap and drying completely between the toes.
Patients with diabetes or whose immune systems have been compromised (making them susceptible to infection) are prone to toenail fungus. So is anyone who spends a significant time in a wet environment, whether it be the locker room outside the squash court or a damp outdoor area.
Our patients in Sunnyvale, Dallas and DeSoto who’ve been treated with the Cooltouch/Cutera laser device reported satisfaction after the first treatment, which they say resulted in visible clearing of the nail where it grows from the nail bed.
They also like the fact that there are no side effects, and the treatment can be repeated as often as desired.
If toenail fungus is one of the banes of your life, try laser therapy. What have you got to lose, besides an ugly toenail?