Laser Treatment for Fungal Toenails
By Gregory Cardinal DPM, MS Podiatrist in Motion, LLC
As the weather gets warmer, it’s time to shed bulkier foot wear for sandals, flip flops and other lighter shoe gear. However, unsightly toenails may prevent many of us from publicly displaying our feet. Toe nail fungus affects millions of people worldwide and not only can be an embarrassing affliction, but the seemingly fruitless struggle to rid one’s toenails of these persistent organisms can be an exercise in utter frustration.
The medical term for toenail fungus is Onychomycosis and the usual culprit organism is Trychophyton Rubrum; this is the same species that causes Athlete’s foot (a precursor and root cause of most toenail fungus). Other species do exist such as T. Mentagrophytes which can cause the nails to have a whitish appearance and Candida Albicans, a mold that is also very common in fingernails.
Although many home remedies are out there including vinegar foot soaks, tea tree oil and baking soda; the treatments recommended by most podiatrists are topical antifungals, oral medication or laser.
All three treatments have their upside and downside. However, in my practice, I’ve found the benefits of laser to be manifold, including that the treatment session is relatively quick, non-invasive, pain free and no blood work or oral medication needed. Laser is effective on its own but is typically recommended for use in tandem with a topical.
How it works is simple, the laser transmits energy through the nail plate and nail bed and essentially kills the organisms at each treatment. Three to four sessions spread apart in monthly intervals usually is sufficient. Still, as with all fungal nail treatments, there is no immediate change in nail appearance, the nail has to grow out to see the full fruits of the treatment and this can take up to a year depending on which toe is treated.
Patients undergoing laser need to be diligent in keeping up with their foot hygiene as to not re-infect themselves. Tips for this include disinfecting or throwing away old shoes, changing shoes and wearing clean socks daily. It is also beneficial to wear breathable stockings made of cotton or wool and remembering to always wear shower shoes at the gym.