Like a weed that’s out of control, toenail fungus can take hold of your feet and make you feel as if it will never let go. Because nails are impenetrable, even aggressive treatment with traditional anti-fungal pills and topical creams may not stop the condition (also called onychomycosis or tinea unguium) from wreaking havoc on both your feet and your life. The newest method to tackle nail fungus is laser light treatment. Essentially, a laser beam penetrates the thickened nail and destroys the affected tissue — without damaging the healthy tissue that surrounds it. But does laser light fungus removal really work, and what are the benefits and risks associated with the treatment?
Benefits of Using Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus
Early Studies Show High Efficacy Rates
Though laser toenail removal is a fairly new removal method, having been introduced into the medical community in the mid-2000s and approved by the FDA in 2010, the initial studies showed that it had a clinical response rate of 87%.
It Is Quick, Painless and Requires No Drugs or Anesthesia
Unlike toenail removal surgeries, laser nail fungus removal is a relatively fast procedure that requires no drugs or anesthesia. It’s also said to be painless.
Only One or Few Treatments Are Required
One of the problems with traditional removal methods is that they take a very long time to successfully administer. Topical creams usually must be applied for months, sometimes even years. Laser treatment, on the other hand, usually takes just one session.
Cosmetically, Laser Treatment Looks Better
Facing debridement or complete removal of the nail is a horrifying thought for those who suffer from toenail fungus. Laser methods keep the nail intact, meaning the nail will look better after this treatment than some other treatments.
It’s a Last Option for Recurrent Infections
When topical creams and antifungal pills don’t work in clearing up an infection (which happens often, as onychomycosis has a recurrence rate of 10% to 50%), laser removal may be a last option, short of surgically removing the nail.
Cons of Using Laser Treatment for Nail Fungus
It’s Still Considered Experimental Treatment
Because few studies have been done on the efficacy of laser toenail fungus treatment and none have been done on the long-term effects of the method, it is still viewed as experimental treatment with questionable success results.
Some Argue the Treatment is Ineffective
In a recent study done with the Noveon laser, only 1/3 of patients saw results — meaning treatment could be hit or miss, depending on each individual case.
Possibility for Tissue Damage in Some Cases
As with any medical treatment, there is a slight risk involved. Though it is rare, some doctors argue that there is a possibility for skin and tissue damage when the laser beam is directed to the deepest levels of the nail.
Toenail fungus removal lasers — two being the PinPointe FootLaser and the Cutera GenesisPlus — are quite expensive for medical facilities to purchase, so the fees for patients to use them are quite high. One laser toenail fungus removal session could cost anywhere from $600 to $1500 — and it’s a process generally not covered by health insurance.
Before deciding whether or not to try laser toenail fungus removal, be sure to consult with a podiatrist or a dermatologist about your condition. Toenail fungus comes in many forms and can look like other foot diseases and ailments, so it’s important to get a positive diagnosis and professional advice before spending money on expensive treatment options.
Alternative Cures For Toenail Fungus
Although laser toenail fungus removal is an effective treatment for some patients, it is not the only option in the fight against onychomycosis. In addition to costly laser methods, there are several at-home remedies you can try to help clear up your toenail fungal infection. Just be sure to speak with a doctor before trying to rid your infection on your own, especially if you do not see improvement within a couple of weeks of administering natural treatments.