A large number of physicians are offering an expensive laser treatment that they say eliminates common nail fungus that causes ugly, discolored nails. Published data on laser treatment for nail fungus is very limited and the opinions and testimonials from people who have undergone the procedure remain very divided.Onychomycosis, or fungal infection of nails—most often on the toes—affects about 12% of Americans, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Some people are genetically prone to it. Others, including swimmers and other athletes, may be more likely to get it because they go barefoot in public areas or because their feet are often damp, scientists say. In its mild forms, nail fungus is merely a cosmetic problem, but over time it can cause toenails to grow abnormally and become painful when walking.
Toenail laser treatment offers a new alternative to oral medication, which carries a risk of liver damage, and a nail lacquer, which has poor efficacy. But the cost of zapping nail fungus with a laser can range $750 to $1,500 for a treatment course. It isn’t generally covered by insurance. Topical treatments are many but the range of truly effective solutions of this kind is small. Whether you choose topical, oral or laser therapy, it can easily take a year for nails to clear entirely.
To prevent fungus recurrence, you must follow a scrupulous hygiene program, including anti-fungal spray for feet and shoes, not going barefoot, keeping feet clean and dry and changing socks daily, doctors say. “Patients and some doctors have this expectation that because it’s a laser treatment, once you zap it and its gone forever,” says Dr. Markinson. “That totally ignores the fact that this is an infectious disease (toenail fungus) and that recurrence is a certainty” unless good prevention measures are taken.