Toenail fungus or onychomycosis is an infection caused by dermatophytes fungus. This particular type of fungus lives on outer layers of the skin and gradually infects the nail plate. The medical name of toenail fungus is onychomycosis. It is common for older people of any sex.
The treatment of toenail fungus depends on how long you have been infected with it. The spread of diseases determines the choice of medicines for particular cases of toenail fungus. The most recent advancement in this infection is laser treatment for removing toenail fungus.
Causes of toenail fungus
Fungi microbes that are very tiny in size. They are only observable under the microscope. The typical environment of fungal growth is anything that is moist, dark and warm.
Dermatophytes are special fungi that infect skin, hair and nails. It can attack humans and animals both. Most of the toenail function infections are caused by dermatophytes.
The fungi make its way to the nail by entering through a tiny opening inside the skin. Any spot where nail and skin are separated, usually caused by an injury is also a possible entry area for fungi. Onychomycosis is more likely to attack older people, particularly in men.
The traditional solution for toenail fungus
The toenail infections are superficial means they only affect the top skin. Using a topical treatment that is applied to the skin is the best help. Most of these infections are asymptomatic i.e. you will not experience any pain, discomfort or irritation on nails. The only thing that you will notice is the unusual appearance of the nail.
The perfect treatment for nail fungus may be expensive for many but it is very effective and safe. Sadly, there is no treatment proven to be 100% effective in this regard, so most of the things that you try for treating toenail fungus are just experimental approaches. However, some medicinal treatments have proven good results.
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These traditional approaches use ineffective therapies and ointments, which are reasonable. They may not work at all or show minimal results.
Any treatment of toenail fungus requires a long-term to completely heal. Usually, a number of therapies or remedies are used altogether. Recently, a new form of treatment became popular which is to treat toenail fungus by laser.
Which types of laser treatments are used for toenail?
For now, there are two models of lasers that are used for treating toenail fungus. One is a Patholase laser, it is not FDA approved but some healthcare professionals are still using it.
It has no studies to prove its efficacy but it is becoming popular these days.
Another model is from Nomir medical technologies and it is still waiting for its FDA approval. It has studies to support its efficacy with 85% improvement in toenail fungal infection.
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How does laser treatment work?
As to the current situation, the use of laser has become very common yet very effective. The laser is a modern and advanced technology, which is used to treat a number of human diseases.
As you know, the laser is just a concentrated beam of light energy, which vaporizes tissue at the particular area under treatment. Experts use different wavelengths of energy to selectively target specific body parts.
When this laser is targeted at the infection site, it doesn’t harm the nail and the skin around it. The laser beam only heats the fungus and kill fungal cells. The adjoining area is not affected by it.
The studies on laser treatment of toenail fungus have very promising results but the case of dermatophytosis linked toenail fungus is yet to be tested on humans. Medical lasers are expensive devices that mean this treatment will be expensive too.
One approach says that some laser may help by heating the nail and kill the fungal cells, as explained earlier. The other approach says to use laser treatment of nails by using a fractional CO2 laser to burn holes in the nail plate.
These holes are the same passage by which topical antifungal medicines and ointments can effectively penetrate.
Is lasers treatment a better choice than medical approaches to treat toenail fungus?
Laser treatment of toenail fungus is very new. It is not even in practice that frequently. Many patients don’t even get a chance to consider it as an option due to its unavailability. It is only limited to certain healthcare units.
There is not much data to support this answer if laser treatment for toenail fungus is better than traditional treatments or not. Also, there is no as such evidence for the laser to prove as a good treatment option whereas for topical ointments, antifungal medicines and sprays, there is sufficient research to support it.
The critical interpretation of views by medical experts says that laser treatment of toenail fungus is probably not ready for the widespread. It should only be a matter of choice by the healthcare provider and that too in specific situations.
For example, they can recommend it in situations where other treatment options have failed. Laser treatment is helpful for treating fungal infections but there is no study performed to investigate the long-term impacts of laser treated toenail fungus.
What is the treatment procedure and cost?
The treatment can be performed in hospital or doctor’s clinic. It may take only a few minutes to complete the procedure. Normally, it takes 15-20 minutes. If the infection is old and spread to maximum part of the nail, the patient may require two to three visits to the doctor for laser treatment in shifts.
It doesn’t cause pain and there is no need for anaesthesia. Laser treatment for toenail fungus is not covered by any medical insurance for now. It is otherwise expensive by price.
This particular type of treatment is considered as a cosmetic solution to the disease. Normally it can cost between $500 to $2,500. It is quite a huge amount for a common infection like toenail fungal growth.
Will fungus grow back again?
The laser treatments, which are FDA approved for toenail fungus, clean the nail. But it is uncertain if the infection will be completely removed or not. The fungus may or may not come back. Some people see a huge difference before getting laser treatment and it never returns back.
Whereas this improvement after laser treatment is temporary for others. It cannot be estimated if the fungus will return or not. But a periodic line of treatment will maintain the removal of toenail fungus completely.
Possible complications and side effects of laser treatment
Laser treatment of any kind is never painful. It just feels warm on the skin but it doesn’t initiate any discomfort. There are no health-related, age-related or sex-related restrictions on using the laser as a tool to treat toenail fungal infection.
Also, there is no report of any side effect or a damaging interaction on the skin. You can even wear nail paints, get a manicure and wear your favourite shoes right away.
The only precaution that you should take is to never go for laser treatment as the first line of treatment. There are a number of antifungal medicines that may help. Your physician will suggest you try these medicines first.
Ideally, it is better to work on treatment patterns gradually. Start from basic and experiment with medicines. When everything fails and it doesn’t seem that there will be any other treatment, then try laser for treating dermatophytes linked toenail infection.