What is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus is an infection of the nails that enters through a crack on the nail itself or on the skin of the toe. It’s very common and easily transmitted in wet, warm environments, such as bathing areas, swimming pools, and gyms.
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot between the toes is the same as what can affect the toenails. That’s why it’s so important to treat athlete’s foot promptly; not only to protect other people but to prevent the involvement of the toenails.
Toenails that have a fungal infection will usually develop one or more white spots initially. At this stage, treatment is straightforward, and a pharmacist will be able to advise which medicine will work best.
However, if the infection is not contained quickly, it can develop into the widespread involvement of one or more nails, which become yellow, thick, and crumbly. Once an infection reaches this stage, a more aggressive treatment approach is required.
How is Toenail Fungus Treated?
If a fungal infection is caught quickly, over-the-counter topical treatment works very well. This can be either a liquid that is applied similarly to a nail polish or a cream that is massaged into affected areas.
These treatments work relatively quickly and prevent long-term damage to the nail. New nail growth is healthy and infection-free.
If toenail fungus is not treated promptly, it can develop to thicken and the nails, turning them yellow and brittle. At this stage, a nail softening cream may be applied, to prepare for scraping off the infected area.
A stronger antifungal cream might also be used. In some cases, the most effective approach is to take antifungal tablets, which are prescribed by a physician. Severe cases of toenail fungus can take between six months and a year to resolve.
What is Laser Treatment and How Does it Work?
For any stage of fungal toenail infection, laser treatment can be effective. A device containing laser light is passed over the infected toenail, penetrating through the entire thickness of the nail and gently heating the skin underneath the nail bed. Heating the area kills off the fungus causing the infection.
Visual results can take up to 12 months to fully develop, as the healthy new nail cells need time to grow out. Whilst the toenail may still show the appearance of infection, this is effectively scarring and is not indicative of active infection.
Once the fungus has been destroyed, the original infection will not return. However, patients must follow aftercare instructions from their clinician to prevent new infection.
What are the Benefits of Toenail Fungus Laser Treatment?
Laser treatment is quick and effective; killing off the infection in its entirety. As the laser penetrates through the nail onto the skin below, it is more effective than topical treatments that may not get through the nail.
Most patients do not experience substantial pain. When the laser is used, it does create a warming sensation on the toe that some patients may find uncomfortable, although this does not represent the majority of experiences.
The clinician performing the procedure will constantly communicate with the patient, and take a break if required. The majority of patients are able to resume normal activities on the same day.
What are the Limitations of Laser Treatment?
LasTreatment?t of toenail fungus is considerably more expensive than other therapies, and may not be covered as part of your medical insurance. Some patients may be disappointed to find out that laser therapy does not give an instant visual improvement.
However, it should be explained by the clinician that the most important aspect of treatment – killing off the fungal infection – is instantaneous and that a visual improvement will be seen as the nail grows. This can take up to one year.
Ready to Try Laser Therapy for Toenail Fungus?
It’s important to entrust your treatment in a qualified, experienced clinician. Infinity Foot & Ankle are the experts in the successful treatment of fungal toenail infections; click here to learn more.