One of the newest uses for lasers in dermatology is for the treatment of toenail fungus. This condition affects many people and leads to undesirable changes in the color and texture of the nail. The laser is used to gently heat the nail and kill the fungus. As the nail grows out over several months, clearance is seen. The treatment is pain-free and takes about 15 minutes. Anywhere from one to three treatments are performed at intervals ranging from one week to six months. Compared to other treatments, laser toenail fungus therapy is highly effective. It does not have side effects such as liver damage that could occur with oral therapy and it does not lead to disfiguring of the nail that is seen with surgical therapy.
What is Laser Toenail Fungus Treatment?
Laser toenail fungus treatment is a laser delivery technology for cosmetic improvement of conditions including the temporary increase in clear nail for patients with toenail fungus.
What causes fungal infection in the nail?
Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a non-life threatening infection of the nails. The fungus usually begins growing on the skin around the nail and then enters the nail bed and nail plate.
Where does the infection come from?
Fungi are everywhere—in the air, the dust, and the soil. Shower floors, locker rooms, and swimming pools are suspected of being sources of the fungus, although there are no studies proving this fact.
What are the symptoms of fungal infection?
Infected nails often have one or more of the following undesirable changes in the nail: no luster, nail brittleness, yellow streaks, thick nails that may separate from the skin, or white spots.
How many treatments will I need?
Most infections improve after two to three 15-20 minute treatments, however, the number of treatments will vary depending on the severity of the nail fungus. Immediately following treatment, no visual change in the nail will be detected, as it takes time for the clear nail to grow.
What treatments are available for fungal infection in the nail?
Nail fungus is prevalent worldwide and up until now, has had very limited, ineffective and undesirable treatment options.
- Topical (applied to the surface) – cannot penetrate the nail adequately to completely eradicate fungus and has to be applied daily.
- Oral (by mouth) – not effective in all patients and side effects include possible liver damage.
- Surgical removal or chemical dissolution of the nail plate – this often ineffective and traumatic procedure leaves the patient without a nail for months and at risk for reinfection.
- Permanent removal of the nail – this often results in a disfigured appearance.
- Laser treatment – short treatment times, minimal pain involved, no down time or side effects have been reported in the literature. The laser energy is delivered to the affected area. Most patients experience some degree of a temporary increase in clear nail.
How does the treatment work?
The laser heats the nail and the nail bed resulting in a decrease of nail fungus and an increase in the growth of clear nail. The treatment involves passing the laser beam over the infected nails and surrounding skin. Dr. Alex will repeat this until enough energy has reached the nail bed. Your nail will feel warm during the treatment. The ClearSense treatment may be performed with no down time.
What are the possible side effects?
No significant side effects have been reported. You may feel slight discomfort associated with heat during treatment, but there is no pain involved post treatment. Patients may also see mild redness briefly after the treatment, but this should resolve in 24 hours.
What can I expect with a Treatment?
Clip the toenails and remove any nail polish before the treatment. Dr. Alex will wipe each nail clean with an alcohol wipe to make sure there is no dirt or debris. Baseline photos will be taken to document nail growth. After the treatment you can resume normal activity immediately after treatment, with no downtime. Nail polish can be applied 24 hours after the treatment. Use new shoes and wash socks thoroughly in hot water. Follow up photographs will be taken to document nail growth. Over the next several months, most patients see some degree of continuous growth of clear healthy nails.
What aftercare do I need?
You may resume normal activity immediately following treatment. Wear new shoes and socks that have been washed thoroughly in hot water to prevent reinfection and further spread of fungus.
Can the fungus come back?
There is a chance of re-infection as the fungus lives within the environment. Proper post-care techniques are recommended to help reduce recurrence.
Photorejuvenation Informed Consent Form, Treatment Questionnaire, and Aftercare Instructions
A photorejuvenation informed consent form and laser treatment questionnaire must be signed by every patient receiving a laser photorejuvenation treatment.