How Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus Works
Laser treatment is the latest method of removing fungus from toenails.
It’s designed to supersede older ways, normally tablets that can struggle to get rid of the fungus. While it hasn’t yet been studied on a large scale, systematic research, some people are delighted with the results.
Tablets, for instance, bring a whole range of side effects that laser treatment simply doesn’t. Taking tablets to treat fungal toenails induces side effects like headaches, itching, loss of taste and even diarrhea. It’s no wonder that people, therefore, prefer a treatment that is safe but can still work.
The other typical way that people treat fungal toenails is with antifungal creams. Antifungal nail cream takes twelve months to work. Nail softening creams mean you have to scrape the infection away yourself, which doesn’t always succeed.
So, let’s find out more about it. How does it work, and how often does it succeed in removing the infection? Welcome to the complete guide to laser treatment for toenail fungus removal.
If you’re looking for a more affordable at-home option, take a look at the Ncure laser device. It is a more affordable alternative, but it’s also getting good results.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Is Fungal Nail Disease, or Onychomycosis?
- 2 How Does Laser Treatment Remove Toenail Fungus?
- 3 Why Is It Better Than Other Methods?
- 4 How Long Does Treatment Take?
- 5 Where Can I Get Treatment?
- 6 Does Treatment with a Laser Hurt?
- 7 Is Laser Treatment Safe?
- 8 How Much Does It Cost?
- 9 How Soon Will I Be Fully Recovered?
- 10 How Soon Will I Have Healthy Toenails Again?
What Is Fungal Nail Disease, or Onychomycosis?
Fungal toenails are an infection of the nail by a kind of fungus that feeds on keratin. After the fungus initially attacks the side or tip of the nail, it spreads to the nail bed. That means that just by cutting the infected part of the nail, you cannot get rid of the fungus.
Onychomycosis is a very common condition, and there are a number of medical treatments available. You can choose ointments and creams, laser treatment or even full surgery. Each method has its benefits, but laser treatment is an exciting new treatment with an excellent track record.
Read on to find out more about how laser treatment can get rid of toenail fungus, why it is an excellent alternative to other methods of treatment, and whether it’s covered by insurance.
How Does Laser Treatment Remove Toenail Fungus?
Laser treatment is designed not to be invasive and to treat your toenail fungus easily. As opposed to other treatments, toenail fungus laser treatment is administered in only a few short sessions. After these sessions, you should be fungus free, although it takes time for the nail to grow through.
The laser treatment works by a simple mechanism. It is administered by a small, laser pen device that travels to and fro across the toenail. This pen device shines a painless infrared beam, which is the necessary and effective part of the treatment.
This infrared beam destroys the spores by which the fungus reproduces, meaning that it cannot spread. Because the fungus cannot spread, it can no longer continue growing on your toenail. As such, it is gradually grown out: healthy nail, over time, replaces the previously infected fungal toenail.
As the laser destroys the spores of the fungus, you may be treated to a small-scale fireworks display. The spores pop and spark as the laser’s light is passed over them bit by bit. This is because they are quite literally exploding under the light of the laser, although this doesn’t hurt.
The risk of reinfection is quite high, and replacing your socks and shoes is recommended. Your podiatrist will also help you keep the fungus away with recommended products available at regular pharmacies, such as Xenna Nonyx Nail Gel for Nail Fungus. With the treatment and advice combined, you should be able to keep your fungal toenails at bay.
Why Is It Better Than Other Methods?
First things first, laser treatment is widely reported to be painless. But suffice to say for now that even though lasers sound scary, then that’s not a true reflection of the treatment. If anything, it’s a rather pleasant warm sensation that spreads through the nail to the nail bed.
Laser treatment is also an excellent method of treating fungal toenails because it is entirely localized. Only the immediate toenail and surrounding area are affected, and any healthy tissue is left completely undamaged. There’s no need to worry about harming any of your other healthy nails in the process of treatment.
As we’ve already mentioned, it also carries no known side effects or allergic reactions for patients. This is in contrast to some of the creams and ointments that most commonly treat fungal toenails. They range from diarrhea to insatiable itching and rashes.
Last but not least, it is genuinely effective in tackling fungal toenails, especially where other treatments aren’t. It works on the basic scientific principle that the laser will kill fungus, but not harm the patient. The mechanism is reminiscent of methods used in food production to control bacteria and fungus from infected food.
That being said, laser treatment for fungal toenails was only introduced around seven or eight years ago. That means that it is still relatively untested compared to other methods like creams and ointments. At least anecdotal evidence is pointing in the right direction, with plenty of satisfied patients across the country.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
Fungal toenails are the kind of problem that sticks around for far longer than they’re welcome. This is combined with the fact that most people avoid treatment because of both hassle and cost. Unfortunately, your first round of treatment is only the beginning, as it takes quite a while to remove fungal toenails.
The length of treatment for your fungal toenail can vary, and also depends on how you define ‘treatment’. Each time that you see a podiatrist for laser treatment, it will take one hour to complete. This is so that the podiatrist can be sure that each nail has been treated fully.
Your treatment also takes place over the course of a number of visits to your podiatrist. This is because every single spore has to be destroyed, or else the fungus will spread once more. Each treatment progressively reduces the risk that the fungus will return later on after your treatment is complete.
As we will cover in more depth later, it also takes many months before your toenail fully heals. This is because the dead toenail has to be replaced by new, healthy nail tissue. That nail tissue grows as fast as you would expect a nail to grow.
This length of recovery time is normal in the context of fungal toenail treatment, which is normally difficult. Creams and ointments take a similar amount of time to achieve the same results, which can be frustrating. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy solution to defeating fungal toenails, so you have to be patient.
Where Can I Get Treatment?
Laser treatment is provided by either general podiatrists or centers that specifically provide laser treatment. These can be found all across the country, so you will have options no matter where you live. It’s easy to find clinics simply through a quick search for laser treatment in your area.
You can get laser treatment either from a general podiatrist or a specialist laser clinic. While it may seem that the specialist is the better choice, this may not always be the case. Chiropodists are still medical experts, and those who offer laser treatment will have experience with the equipment.
Does Treatment with a Laser Hurt?
Lasers sound painful, and this can be one of the reasons why people put off having laser surgery. Perhaps it makes you think of the scene in Goldfinger where James Bond is strapped to a table with an industrial scale laser about to cut him in half. But you’re not expected to die when you have laser treatment for your fungal toenails.
The process is deceptively simple, and the laser is so small that it’s known as a laser pen. It’s completely non-invasive- even though you will have heard the term laser surgery– and practically painless. The best way of finding out what it’s like is asking somebody who’s gone under the laser already.
During the treatment of your fungal toenail, the laser beam will slowly pass over your nail bed. The laser is what’s known as a cold laser, although it will generate heat beneath the nail bed. This heat is not a burning sensation, but a gentle warmth, which will last for around a minute.
Patients do not complain of pain, but some are more sensitive to the feeling than others. This is perfectly normal, although those who would describe the sensation of painful don’t experience pain for long. The sensation never lasts for more than a minute or two, although of course, each nail undergoes treatment.
Throughout your laser treatment, you will not be under either general or local anesthetic. The slight pain, or complete lack of pain, means that it’s completely unnecessary for you to be anesthetized. Because it isn’t considered necessary for you to be put under, this is a measure of the painlessness of the treatment.
Is Laser Treatment Safe?
Receiving laser treatment for a fungal toenail is entirely safe and approved for use in the United States. It’s also used in other countries around the world, some of which have even more stringent regulations. Laser treatment, while it sounds scary, is used for a whole host of conditions apart from fungal toenails.
It is widely used as a method of controlling body hair, and administered by professionals. It is also used for the removal of skin tags, moles, and other bodily blemishes, completely safely. It’s no surprise that it’s also used to remove fungal toenails, given that lasers kill bacteria and fungus.
If anything, laser treatment is even safer than the alternatives on offer to treat fungal toenails. The most well-known medications, like almost all medications, carry with them debilitating side effects. Moreover, these side effects don’t solely affect certain people, for instance, who are allergic to a certain ingredient.
The side effects of the medication include debilitating headaches, itching, loss of taste and even diarrhea. Removing toenails with medication, therefore, has to be balanced with the side effects you would suffer through. But laser treatment does not have any harmful side effects whatsoever and is entirely safe.
Research has been done for the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association on precisely this topic. Clinical studies indicate that over 80% of patients whose fungal infection was treated by laser showed significant improvement. And of those, none of them complained of any side effects whatsoever- so it is safe.
How Much Does It Cost?
Laser treatment for nail fungus is not covered by insurance, although you may be an exception. Treating fungal toenails typically takes many sessions, each of which has to be paid for individually. The fact that fungal toenails can get so bad may force your insurance company to reconsider.
Even if you’re fairly sure they won’t fork out the cash, it’s worth talking to them and asking. You may just be surprised, and find you’re entitled to something you thought you weren’t. And if the worst comes to the worst, you can always switch to a provider who does and accepts pre-existing conditions.
The reason that insurers won’t necessarily help you with your fungal toenails is quite simple. It’s because they’re still considered to be a cosmetic issue, rather than a fundamental medical condition. Right or wrong, that’s their position on the issue, and we as their customers have to accept that.
If you aren’t covered, but still want to get rid of your fungal toenails, simply contact your podiatrist. They can quote a price over the phone for treating your fungal toenails, on one foot or both. They can also tell you more about the treatment, should you choose to go forward with it.
A one-hour treatment session will cost around a thousand dollars. Whether you consider that reasonable is down to how much you want to fix your nails. You should also bear in mind that you will probably need far more than just one laser session.
How Soon Will I Be Fully Recovered?
Unlike treatment for, say, an ingrown toenail, your recovery will be fairly quick. By that, we mean that you will be able to continue with your everyday life very soon afterwards. You can wear socks and shoes immediately after your procedure, but just make sure they’re clean. There are specialist antifungal socks that you can wear.
Because the treatment is designed not to be invasive, your toe or toes will recover very quickly. That means that if you walked into the clinic, you would be able to walk out again. This is unlike a surgical treatment of fungal toenails, which means that you will not be able to walk.
As for the time, it will take before you have a fully healthy nail, that’s a different question. It can take a lot of time after treatment before your nail appears healthy. This is despite the fact that the fungus will have died; the nail still needs to be replaced.
How Soon Will I Have Healthy Toenails Again?
Firstly, you will most likely require several sessions to deal with your fungal toenail. These could take many weeks, depending on how many sessions you have to go through. Your podiatrist will advise you on the amount of time, and the number of sessions this will take.
Having been through treatment for your fungal toenail, your podiatrist will be able to advise your recovery further. They can tell you how to speed up recovery using various products applied until the nail recovers fully. But even so, your recovery may not be linear, and you should not expect clear nails straight away.
As a patient, you will not see results immediately, so do bear that in mind when you recover. Rather, your recovery will take several months, as the nail starts to regrow. Your old nail will be replaced by new, healthy nail, over the course of several months.
Remember, nails grow exceedingly slowly, and the toenail infected by a fungus is unrecoverable tissue that must be replaced. Toenail laser surgery is not a matter of fixing the nail you already have, but destroying the fungus. Once the fungus is destroyed, the new nail that comes through will not have been infected.
It is this new nail that is the clear, healthy nail you will have been looking for. After your nail starts to recover, you should make sure that you avoid any potential of re-infection. In the worst case scenario, you can always have more laser treatment for your toenails.