Definition and Overview
Laser toenail treatment is a quick and safe form of treatment for toenail fungus, a condition caused by dermatophyte, a fungus that thrives in the outer layers of dead skin, and eventually crosses over to the nail plate. Most patients suffering from this condition are older men, but there are also many cases of female and younger patients.
There are a number of conditions or situations that lead to the development of toenail fungus. Fungi are essentially microscopic organisms, and they do not need sun exposure to survive and thrive. They love warm and moist environments and are frequently found in showers and swimming pools. The feet, with socks and shoes, provide a perfect environment for these fungi because they are also perfectly warm and moist. They thrive in toenails, which are located in the lowest part of the body, and typically have less blood flow. The fungus that causes this condition typically lodges itself in the tiny space between the toenail and the nail bed, which acts as a protection against the elements.
Some people are at a higher risk of developing toenail fungus than others. Older male patients with a family history of toenail fungus have the highest risk. So are people who perspire heavily, whose occupation involves the feet constantly getting wet, people who work or live in a moist or humid environment, living in close proximity to a person with toenail fungus, those who walk barefoot in gyms, shower rooms, and pools, and those suffering from psoriasis, circulation issues, or diabetes.
The condition does not produce any kind of symptoms, other than a very unpleasant appearance. A toenail infected by fungi typically starts out with a whitish or yellowish spot under the nail, and eventually goes deeper. As the condition progresses, the nail will begin to thicken, and exhibit discoloration, a ragged appearance, and a crumbling texture.
There are many ways to treat a toenail fungal infection. Some patients opt for over-the-counter or prescription topical medication. However, applying and ensuring that the medication penetrates the affected area can be difficult since the toenail does not have an easily permeable surface. There are also oral medications that can be prescribed to sufferers of this condition, but it could be a while before they take effect.
Laser treatment is not the first option to treat toenail fungus. Some doctors will initially recommend self-care measures or prescribe medication. If the fungus remains persistent after such measures, it is best to ask a doctor about laser treatment options.
Who should undergo and expected results
Anyone suffering from a toenail fungal infection can undergo laser treatment, especially if their condition has not responded to self-care measures or medication that a doctor has initially prescribed.
Expected results should be the clearing of the fungal infection, and the re-growth of healthy nails over time. On average, an individual grows a new, healthy toenail between six and nine months.
How the procedure works
Laser treatment for toenail fungus involves the use of a laser, a focused beam of light use in a narrow range to effectively target the infection. The specific wavelength and its pulse currency, as well as the amount of time in between the pulses of light, will depend on the manufacturer of the equipment the doctor will use. Unlike topical treatment, the laser can penetrate deep into the toenail to destroy the fungus. When exposed to the laser beam, the fungus sitting in the nail bed will evaporate.
This kind of treatment is non-invasive and generally not painful. The laser is set to not affect the healthy tissues in the nail bed, and the toenails are generally dead cells that are not connected to a nerve, so the treatment will not cause pain.
The laser procedure is also very quick and can be performed on an outpatient basis. After setting the appointment, all the patient has to do is to show up at the hospital or clinic where the procedure is going to be performed. It takes around ten minutes to treat each infected toenail and the treatment requires just one session to complete.
Laser toenail treatment is very effective, with over eighty percent of patients reporting that the fungus has completely cleared after undergoing the quick procedure. In most patient cases, the laser completely destroys the fungus and its pathogens, reducing or eliminating the risk of reoccurrence.
To speed up the growth of new healthy toenails, doctors typically prescribe a follow-up treatment, which involves anti-fungal creams with L-arginine as the active ingredient. This kind of anti-fungal cream shows very impressive results, speeding up nail replacement up to a hundred percent. Some doctors might also recommend post-care topical creams to prevent possible re-infection in the future.
After the procedure, the patient can walk out of the office and resume normal activities right away.
Possible risks and complications
Laser toenail treatment has proven to be very safe, without the risk of injuries, side effects, or other adverse reactions.
- Hochman, Lisa G. "Laser treatment of onychomycosis using a novel 0.65-millisecond pulsed Nd:YAG 1064-nm laser." Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy 13.1 Feb. 2011: 2-5.