Laser treatment for foot fungus is one of many interesting new options to tame athlete’s foot, clear up toenail fungus and remove warts. It is even effective at reducing scars on wounded tootsies. If you’re considering this innovative solution to your podiatry problems, we hope this article will help you make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Fast Facts

  • In many instances, a single treatment is sufficient to put an end to toe and foot fungus.
  • A podiatry laser has no effect on healthy tissue. It targets only the infected areas.
  • The course of treatment generally lasts from 6 to12 weeks, but full results are not realised until the nail grows back completely, which can take up to four months.

Fungus thrives in any warm, damp place. So feet, often confined in sweaty athletic shoes and socks, are a prime target. Tineapedis, or “athlete’s foot,” isn’t just a problem for fitness enthusiasts. Many people are troubled by this foot fungus, which causes cracked and inflamed skin, painful oozing blisters and, sometimes, a truly offensive smell.

Nail fungus, known to doctors as onychomycosis, is caused by a fungus spreading under the nail into the nail bed. For women who choose style over function in footwear, theirtight-fitting toe boxes create a perfect incubator for fungal infections.

On its website, the Australian Podiatry Association (NSW & ACT) reports that:

“Approximately 50 percent of all nail disorders are fungal infections. There are many contributing causes, including physical damage to the nail, a weakened immune system due to conditions such as diabetes and cancer, and overexposure to water or detergents.”

Reasons for choosing to have a laser treatment

Lasers are a non-invasive treatment protocol for nail fungus.The treatment requires no anaesthesia, and no side effects are anticipated when you have this “walk in, walk out” treatment. Other positive benefits of laser treatment include:

  • It carries no risk of liver damage (as with anti-fungal pills) so there’s no need to come in for repeated liver tests.
  • It offers better results than prescription lacquer which, according to The New York Times has a “cure rate” of less than 10%.
  • It’s much less invasive than nail removal or surgery.
  • It can be completed in under an hour.
  • Most patients report no pain whatsoever.

What to expect

A focused and organised beam of light is directed into the infected area with fungus. It is tuned to a specific frequency that affects the cells responsible for the infection. This tailored laser beam penetrates the nail and vaporise fungus embedded in the nail plate or nail bed.

Each laser manufacturer’s equipment has proprietary wavelengths, pulse frequency and duration schedule for treatment. Many doctors report that it takes approximately 10 minutes to treat a single toe that has developed fungus. If more toes are affected, the treatment session will be longer.

That being said, a specific treatment plan and duration of each session will need to be determined by your personal physician based on your unique case.

Before and after

As with any medical concern, the treatment of nail fungus begins with a physical exam. If the presence of a nail fungus infection is confirmed, treatment options will be discussed. As part of establishing a treatment plan, your physician will recommend and explain a treatment and discuss whether (and how many) follow-up visits may be required.

On the day before treatment, patients should

  • Remove all nail polish and nail decorations.
  • Thin affected nails down as much as possible with a nail file.

On the day of treatment, patients should

  • Wear comfortable clothes that can easily be rolled up.
  • Bring a clean pair of socks to change into after your laser treatment appointment.

In many instances, a single treatment is sufficient to put an end to toe and foot fungus. With toenail fungus, which causes a yellowing and thickening of the nail, treatment does not immediately produce a clear nail. It takes time for the affected nail to grow out and be replaced by a new healthy nail.

Possible risks and complications

A podiatry laser has no effect on healthy tissue. It targets only the infected areas. Happily, patients who undergo laser nail treatment for fungus removal should experience no discomfort during or after the treatment.

In some cases, patients have reported feeling a warming sensation or a slight pinprick.

Other options for foot and nail fungus

Oral antifungal medications offer a different approach to treating nail fungus. Studies have shown the most effective treatments to beterbinafine and itraconazole. They help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected portion of your nail.

Oral medications are generally prescribed for foot fungus and nail fungus related to

  •  Diabetes.
  • A history of cellulitis.
  • Pain or discomfort resulting from the nail infection.

The course of treatment generally lasts from 6 to12 weeks, but full results are not realised until the nail grows back completely, which can take up to four months. Recurrent infections are common, particularly if your feet become warm and moist inside your shoes.

Antifungal drugs for foot fungus may cause side effects from mild (skin rash) to extreme (liver damage). This course of therapy is not recommended for people suffering from congestive heart failure, who have liver disease or take certain types of medications.

Other treatment options for nail fungus

Your doctor may also suggest these nail fungus treatment options:

  •  Antifungal Lacquer– This option is for people with a mild to moderate nail fungus. You paint the lacquer onto your infected nails and the surrounding skin once a day. After a week, you remove the lacquer with alcohol and begin a fresh series of applications. It takes about a year to help clear up some fungal infections of the nail.
  •  Topical Medications – Topical medications are part of a treatment program, not a cure by themselves. Your doctor who will generally encourage you to use the creams with an over-the-counter lotion containing urea, to speed up absorption through the skin.  As part of this approach, your doctor may file the surface of your nail to lessen the amount of infected nail to treat and hopefully make the topical medication more effective.
  •  Surgery – In cases where a nail infection has progressed to the “severe” stage and is extremely painful, your doctor may recommend removing your nail.A new nail will usually grow in its place, but it will come in slowly and may take as long as a year to grow back completely.  Sometimes surgery is used in combination with a topical solution that treats the nail bed to further inhibit the fungus.

Rough costs involved

There are several factors that affect the cost of laser treatment for your feet:

  •  The area(s) of your foot that needs treatment.
  • The thickness of the nails.
  • The severity of the infection.
  • The specific device/system chosen by your doctor or dermatologist.
  • The number of treatment sessions you will need. The number of sessions and how much time should lapse between sessions depends on the chosen system and your unique situation.

Costs will also depend on where you are and where your doctor practices. Different doctors and other providers may also have varying rates for the same laser treatment.

This information is correct as of 2019.

Sometimes surgery is used in combination with a topical solution that treats the nail bed to further inhibit the fungus.

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