Chronic fungal toenails are a much more frequent problem than you might think. Approximately 30 million Americans harbor the unsightly infection—you’re definitely not alone!
That said, we understand that may not be much comfort. Fungal toenails might be common, but they are still unsightly and potentially embarrassing for many sufferers. And unfortunately, the infection is very stubborn, with few good options for effective treatment …
… until now! Laser treatment has made effective eradication of the fungus faster, easier, and safer than ever. Combined with proper hygiene habits, it’s the best way to get your clear and healthy toenails back for good.
Fungal Toenails: A Brief Overview
Fungal toenail infections may first appear as a tiny speck of white or yellow under the nail. In time, however, the entire nail may become yellowish and discolored. An infected nail will also often become excessively thick, crumbly, ragged, or even warped and distorted.
The culprit is a class of fungi known as dermatophytes, which also cause athlete’s foot. They need a protein called keratin to survive, and keratin happens to be highly abundant in your nail plate—in short, they’ll never run out, so they won’t go away on their own without treatment. They may sneak under the nail plate through tiny cuts, or a separation between the nail and the skin.
Dermatophyte fungi proliferate most easily in dark, warm, and moist environments. Your shoes and socks make tempting targets, especially if you sweat a lot. Going barefoot in public places (especially locker rooms and pool decks) can also transmit the fungi to you.
If you already have athlete’s foot, it can also spread to your toenails.
How to Get Rid of Your Fungal Toenails
Broadly speaking, there are two main steps to any fungal toenail treatment course.
- Eliminate the fungus. Traditionally this was done with the use of medications, but today laser treatment is by far the best option.
- Create a “hostile environment” for the fungus. Once the infection is killed, you’ll need to practice good hygiene and preventative care to keep the fungus from coming back.
We’ll take a closer look at both of these steps.
Laser Treatment for Fungal Toenails
At our office, we use an FDA-approved laser system to eradicate fungal toenail infections. This system is fast, convenient, drug-free, painless, has no known side effects, and offers higher overall cure rates than antifungal medication treatments.
During an appointment, we will sit you down and apply the laser to each infected toe. The light energy is carefully tuned to a power and wavelength that can pass through the nail and kill the fungal cells—all without causing any collateral damage to your own healthy cells.
Appointment times vary depending on how many toes need treatment, but can often be completed in less than 30 minutes. A standard treatment course may require 3-4 treatments spaced out over several weeks or months, but this also will depend on your condition.
Although significant clearing of the nail is possible after just one or two treatments, the best results are achieved 6-12 months later. This is true for all fungal toenail treatments, since it takes time for new, healthy nail to grow out and replace portions that have been damaged.
More traditional treatments, such as oral antifungal pills, can also be provided. These sometimes come with undesirable side effects, so laser treatment is generally preferred.
Creating a Healthy Environment for Your Feet
While laser treatment is very effective at eliminating the fungi, it isn’t a “magic bullet” that will permanently restore your toenails. If you don’t want the fungus to come back, you’ll want to take good care of your hygiene!
- Wash your feet with soap and water every day, and dry them thoroughly before putting on a new pair of socks or shoes.
- Treat your shoes with an antifungal powder or spray overnight.
- Whenever possible, opt for breathable and moisture-wicking materials for your socks and shoes.
- Change socks and shoes whenever they get damp, even if that ends up being more than once per day.
- Rotate pairs of shoes and avoid wearing the same pair two days in a row. This allows more than 24 hours of drying time for each pair.
- Avoid going barefoot in public facilities like showers, locker rooms, and pool decks.
- Clean and disinfect your nail trimmers and other tools after use. If you like going to the salon for pedicures, either take your own tools or make sure the salon fully sterilizes all equipment and pools between uses.
Although we can help eradicate even the worst fungal toenail infections, it’s definitely better to seek treatment early. Plus, the sooner you start, the sooner you get those healthy nails back! To schedule with us in Milford or Hamden, please call (203) 876-7736 today.