Toenails health might be one of the least things one would care about. It rarely affects overall health, other than giving inferior confidence. There are many ways to eliminate the disturbing illness, but laser treatment seems to have slight upper hand than the others.
What Is Toenail Fungus?
The medical term of this illness is Onychomycosis. It is caused by a dermatopyte, a species from fungus family that attacks the outer skin layer. This fungus is harmless to the body because it infects the dead, hardened and sometimes horny skin near the toe. The first sign includes white spots on the nails that eventually spread to the whole nail.
When the condition worsened, the fungus will slowly infect the nail plate as well, inflicting disturbing pain when walking. For people with special condition like diabetes or suppressed immune system, there will be more effects. Most likely, the harmful toenail fungi infection will develop into more serious damage to the skin tissues.
As expected, the appearance of healthy and fungi infected toes are totally different. The normal toes would have medium thickness and clean look. The infected one, however, has darker color and thicker layers. Even worse, fungi makes the skin surface looks dry, which then develop to some bristles.
Commonly, this illness happens to older people. Why? It is because they have longer time and more chance to get exposed to moisture. Sadly, it isn’t always right. The fast growth of fungi on toes is caused by moist environment. Therefore, there are no actual boundaries of age and sex of the possible victims.
In Americans, 10-15% of the people have problem with the toe fungus. Some occupations, have higher risks to get infected. Some of them are lifeguard, firefighter, swimmer, and soldiers.
Referring to the fact that this fungus is not attacking the living cell, it rarely shows any pain or discomfort like the other illness in the mild stage. Moreover, nail discoloration rarely triggers someone to be worried and see their doctors.
What Is The Traditional Treatment?
Believe it or not, oral treatment is still prescribed by several doctors even though this kind of treatment mostly works on living cells. As the result, there are more side effects to the body. However, among the other options, this is one the most effective way to get rid of the unpleasing fungus.
Oral treatment is prescribed for six to 12 weeks. For the long period, the drug brings side effects such as diarrhea, rash, and even liver damage. The latter effect might happen when the patient takes similar medication to treat the recurrence. Therefore, those under the prescription should be closely monitored by the doctors.
Some other doctors might give you the topical treatment. This is also one of the most successful therapies for toenail fungus case. Unfortunately, it costs a lot and takes almost half a year of regular administrations and checkups. Why is it so? Because the infection is deep and it is out of the reach for the topical drug.
Those who want to take the shortcut might also consider to do nail surgery. The procedure will include removing the nail plate and the dead skin layers. When asked about the effectiveness of this option, most dermatologists agree that it is ineffective.
Some other remedies includes vinegar, tea tree oil and bleach. The source of this belief is not clear and again, proved to be wrong. Several clinicians share that many of their patients actually listen to another “old wive tales”: rubbing certain warming ointment to the affected area. This action, in fact, make the fungi last longer instead of killing it.
Why Some Are Doubting Laser Treatment?
The main reason is the lack of official certification from legal health institution. In this case, it will be the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). When it is is first proposed by the manufacturer, FDA includes toenail treatment in the aesthetic therapy, which is not related to health at all. In the other words, treating the thickened toenails is just merely for beauty, since the condition is not a serious health matter.
Even without any approval from FDA, many clinicians are already using it in their clinics. Beside, there is no health insurance that is willing to cover the high price for the therapy. This is why many people are still spending their money on the trusted oral and topical medication to treat their darkening toenails.
How Laser Treatment Works?
Laser treatment is another product of advanced medical development, which could be designed to cure several diseases. Even though this technology is quite tempting and promising, many sides still doubt its effectiveness. Probably, because they are not familiar yet on how the machine works.
Laser relies on the light energy to do the treatment part. Once the doctor turn on the machine, it will produce a thin light with certain wavelength and sufficient strength. This light then directed to the affected tissue. Depending on the condition of the tissue, there might be difference in the level of light absorption.
The tissue will be destroyed by the heat produces by the laser machine. One reason why this technology is so appealing is the high accuracy. Apart form the targeted tissue, there will be no other damage. Thus, the other healthy tissue won’t be affected. In addition, it only takes 10 to 20 minutes to perform the treatment. Longer time might be needed depending on the number of toenails are treated.
Even though the laser treatment for toenail fungus is basically destroying the infected tissues, the patient doesn’t have to worry about the overbearing pain. Instead of hitting the nerve, the heating light will only deliver warm sensation. After the first treatment, the patient could expect the growth of healthier nails in the next two or three months.
As for the weakness, it will be the high cost for one time treatment. It is due to the rocket price of the machine. This condition leaves no choice other than expensive laser treatment. Otherwise, the clinic might not be able to recoup the cost spent on the machine itself.
- Two Different Approaches
The patients who visit different clinics might be surprised to see different laser treatment for toenail fungus. One approach includes heating the infected tissues for several minutes. This action will make the fungi disappear in one treatment. The doctors who administer this therapy usually don’t give any additional prescription to the patient.
The second option of laser treatment combines the power of heating light and also the topical therapy. It starts with making a hole in nail plate. This step is done by using the CO2 laser. Through the hole, topical drug will be given. Many experts believe that it will maximize the effectiveness of the drug. Without the hole, it would be hard for the drug to properly execute the fungus, since the drug will have penetration problem.
- Two Different Machines
In the market, there are two different types of laser machines. The first one is called Phatolase Laser. It has proposed its medical performance, but not yet approved by the FDA. It is because the study cannot prove its effectiveness to reduce fungi that attacked toenails by using the single light. However, many clinicians believe that this machine has high potential to be one of the trusted laser machines.
Another laser machine is produced by Nomir Medical Technologies. The wavelength chosen by the manufacturer could show significant and immediate destruction of the fungus. The light used is infrared. It already receives FDA approval for improving around three quarter of the patients after the treatment. In order to get the full license, this laser machine will undergo a twelve-month observation of post-laser therapy.
Some other manufacturers also try their luck in building a laser machine. Unfortunately, they take UVC light in the machine, which may trigger higher cancer risk after use. Therefore, it is declined by most medical experts.
Can Laser Treatment Cure Toenails Fungus?
Rising to the surface in 2008, it is not until 2010 that FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) publish the official letter for laser machine by Nomir. The label given to this helpful machine is “temporary increase of clear nail”. The reason is simple. People define “cure” as something that will bring permanent result. In laser treatment, this is not the case.
Those who have finished their treatment might also get infected months after the new nails grow if they don’t change their habit. Therefore, neither laser treatment nor traditional medications are meant to prevent fungi stick back to the dead tissue.
Is There Any Know How?
Fungi grow well in moist environment. Many people might not realize that their wrong habit make the toenails damp. First of all, it is the habit of not drying thoroughly after bath. Most people only dry the upper part of their body up to the knees, skipping the toe nails. After the laser treatment, use hair dryer on low setting to dry them.
One of the main medium for fungus infection is in fact the pedicure instruments. If you like to do it personally, don’t forget to keep them clean before and after use. For those who prefer to get pedicure in beauty shop, make sure the pedicurist sanitize her instruments first.
In addition to tools, one could also be infected by fungus in certain places. For example: locker rooms, public bath, and public pools. Since many people use the facilities all together, no wonder that the chance to get infected by fungi is high. Therefore, never forget to wear shoes on these places.
Since toenails is often covered by socks, it is better to purchase the synthetic socks. The pair will absorb extra moisture in your nails area. Any other cloth material is fine, as long as it can perform the same function. Otherwise, you just welcome the fungi to stick on your toenails. For those with high movement activities, it is suggested to change the socks several times in a day.
Aside from the socks, pay attention also to the shoes. Make sure the shoes are made of breathable material. Any product with this feature will have micro pores that allow the air to slip in, reducing the moisture inside. In addition, avoid the pair of shoes that are too tight. Purchase the one that fits well instead.
Some people might like to pick the skin on the corner of the nails while clipping. This habit will make the space between the nail and the bed. Then, moisture can easily be trapped in between. If needed, spray anti-fungal spray on your toenails before wearing socks or shoes.
Last but not least. Those who have infected might be desperate to cover their shameful nails. Some of them choose to wear closed shoes and avoid flip flop for all occasions. Then, several people might try to cover the unpleasing color with nail polish. For a moment, the color looks nice. Several days later, the moisture trapped under the nail polish will make the infection worse than before.
Is There Any Supporting Studies About Laser Treatment?
Before the laser machine is legally adopted by many pediatrics and clinicians around the world, the manufacturer had made a small experiment to prove that the machine could help the problem. It was conducted in a closed conference, attended by several medical experts.
The experiment took 26 eligible toes sample, divided into three groups: mild, moderate and severe. Ten of the samples belong to mild category, while the other seven and nine fills the respective groups. After receiving laser treatment, 85% of them got better in the six months observation.
As the red line of the explanation above, the medication of toenail fungus will be in high price. In the end, the cost of traditional treatment might just right behind the laser treatment for toenail fungus. The plus points are the immediate effect, no side effects and short time treatment. In fact, this modern option only takes half time of the traditional ones. Isn’t it a great offer?