Roanoke Podiatrist Treating Toenail Fungus on fungal nail on a Big ToeDo your toenails look yellow? Are they thicker than usual, getting brittle and cracked? You might suffer from a fungal toenail infection. Known medically as onychomycosis, fungal infections underneath toenails are quite common. It affects about one in 10 Americans. Older people are more prone to infection.

The good news is that it can be treated with laser therapy, which is safe, effective and virtually painless. Read on to learn more about laser therapy for fungal nails and if it’s the right option for you.

What Causes Fungal Nail Infections?

The most common cause of fungal nail infections is exposure in a public place. This is usually through direct contact. You might not even notice it.

Fungus grows best in damp and moist places. Think hot tubs and saunas, plus pools or the shower at your local gym. The fungus gets underneath your toenails and spreads as an infection. You may also develop an infection if you have sweaty socks or shoes that don’t breathe well.

The fungus causing toenail infections is the same one causing athlete’s foot. In fact, when a toenail infection spreads to the skin, that is athlete’s foot. Fungal nail infection may start as a small yellow spot. It can then grow to thicken or crack your toenail. Brittle, ragged toenails are a telltale sign of a fungal infection.

How Does Laser Therapy Work?

Laser treatment is a terrific option for treating fungal infections. The laser is a specific kind of light using specific wavelengths. The targeted pulses of energy get through the toenail’s surface to reach the fungus directly. The heat is deadly to fungus but harmless to the surrounding tissue. The sterilizing heat also helps to prevent more fungus from growing.

Before starting, your podiatrist may remove dead skin. They may also clean the affected area with a sterile solution. Then, they will position your foot for the laser.

The procedure itself only takes a few minutes with almost no side effects or discomfort. You’ll be done before you know it. Most patients need more than one appointment, spaced five to six weeks apart. Your podiatrist will work with you to design a treatment plan. As the fungus is removed, your toenails need time to grow back. This can take up to 18 months.

Benefits of Laser Therapy for Fungal Nails in Roanoke

What are some reasons why you may choose laser therapy to treat a fungal infection? The treatment is gaining in popularity for several reasons:

  • Effective. Most patients enjoy noticeable improvement. One study demonstrated over 90 percent clinical improvement with a 30 percent cure rate at 180 days. Another study showed a 61 percent cure rate at 16 weeks.
  • Safe. There are very few risks to laser treatments from an experienced professional. It is a very safe procedure and a great alternative to oral medicine.
  • Little to no discomfort. Most people report feeling very little pain from laser therapy. You may feel some heat from the laser.
  • Fast. Each treatment session takes no more than 30 minutes. You can get it done during your lunch break from work.
  • Preventative. Laser treatments kill existing fungal infections. They can help prevent new fungal growth too.
  • Quick recovery. The recovery time after a treatment is very short, less than two weeks. 

Other Fungal Nail Treatment Options

You do have other options for fungal nail treatment. They may not be as safe or effective as laser therapy, though. The following are a few of the choices:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) topical treatments. Antifungal medications that you apply directly to the toe only work with mild cases. The toenail can act as a barrier to the fungus itself, so the treatment may not reach it.
  • Prescription topical treatments. They’re more powerful than OTC options, but they face the same physical limitation. They may not reach the fungus as the toenail material gets in the way.
  • Antifungal oral medications. Pills get past the physical barrier, but they are nonspecific in their effects. They do not target the toenail infection directly. They can also cause liver damage or full-body side effects.
  • Surgery. As a last resort, surgery may sometimes be needed to treat more extreme fungal infections. Your podiatrist may need to remove the infected nail.

Schedule Your Appointment With Our Roanoke Podiatrist Today

Fungal infections of your toenails are more than a cosmetic issue. They can be irritating and uncomfortable. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your skin. Don’t linger. Call us at 540-904-1458 or fill out our online contact form today to book your appointment. Our team is happy to help with any problems you may have with the skin and nails on your feet.