Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus
Of all the things that could go wrong with your feet, having a toenail fungus doesn’t seem that serious. However, it can make you self-conscious, inhibit your activity (for fear of spreading it), and even lead to open sores on diabetic feet. Fortunately, Parker Foot & Ankle offers new technology to deal with your unattractive nails: laser treatment. But first, let’s look at the very best treatment of all—not getting the fungus in the first place.
Microscopic fungi are hard to avoid. You can’t see them, but they are all around you in showers, bathrooms, locker rooms, public pools, and even the towels and socks of others with the infection. So how can you avoid being infected? Here are some tips that may help:
- Keep things clean. Wash your feet every day. Wash your hands often, and keep nails trimmed and clean. Wash towels and sheets in hot water when possible.
- Keep feet dry. Dry thoroughly after your shower or bath, use powder (antifungal is helpful), and wear socks and shoes that breathe and draw moisture away from your feet.
- Don’t pick, and be careful when trimming nails. Any time you damage the skin around your nails you leave an opening for the fungus to invade and set up house.
- Wear foot protection in damp public places. This provides a barrier between you and the fungus.
- Get rid of old shoes that may have been infected, or treat with antifungal sprays or powders. Treat the skin of your feet, too, if you’ve had an infection in the past.
These habits will make it harder for the fungus to find you, but there is no guarantee that it won’t slip through your defenses, so let’s talk treatment.
Two Treatment Options for Fungal Nails
The first is topical medications—cream or gel that is applied to the nail and surrounding skin. In the very earliest stages, they may just work to nip an infection in the bud. Once the fungus has burrowed under the nail, however, they lose effectiveness because they can’t penetrate the hard tissue.
The second is oral antifungal medications, which for many years have been your only other option. These are delivered through your blood stream and are a bit more effective than topical treatments, but come with undesired side effects like nausea and the risk of liver damage. You need to have tests periodically while on these medications to make sure liver function hasn’t been impaired.
A Third and Better Way
In the last few years, Dr. Robert Parker has pioneered the use of laser treatment for fungal toenails in the Houston area. Our office was one of the first to use this new technology to eliminate the fungus under the nail where it grows. Each new laser is an improvement on the ones before. We are currently using the FDA cleared Fotona laser with great results in 80 to 85% of our patients.
This therapy involves focusing intense light beams right on the fungus. Its cells are vaporized and destroyed without damage to the healthy tissue around them. The procedure is quick, painless, has no known side effects, and is done right in our office. We can usually see great improvement with only one to three treatments, although stubborn cases may require a combination of laser combined with short term oral antifungals for complete eradication.
Remember, toenail fungus can be a chronic problem, so continue to practice good habits to fight off future infections, and be prepared for a certain amount of maintenance treatment that may be needed to keep your nails clear and healthy.
Understanding Therapeutic Lasers & their uses
We all use acronyms to name and describe everything from organizations (APMA for American Podiatric Medical Association) to the colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV=red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
What you might not know is that when we talk about therapeutic laser for foot problems, we are actually referring to Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation—LASER. At Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, we use forms of this therapy for several different conditions.
How It Works
The principle behind the use of a laser is that focused light beams can treat medical conditions on the cellular level. The basic technological unit produces light beams of specific wave lengths and emits them through hand-held devices that can focus them specifically on the area being treated.
LLLT—another acronym meaning Low-Level Laser Therapy—uses wavelengths from about 600 – 1000 to bring about a biological response in your cells. It does not emit sound, heat or vibration, but the light induces a photochemical reaction (not exactly the same, but think of plants using sunlight to grow).
As the light is absorbed by the cells, it has three main effects: 1) analgesic, meaning it reduces pain, 2) anti-inflammatory, suppressing redness, swelling, and warmth in the tissue, and 3) bio-stimulatory, increasing the cells’ repair and growth functions to promote healing.
Other wavelengths and intensified laser beams are used in a different way to destroy cells by heating them so they vaporize.
What Laser Therapy Is Used For
Surgeons—and manufacturers, for that matter—use the more intense wavelengths to make precise cuts in everything from tumors to diamonds, and we at Parker Foot & Ankle use this type of light beam to treat problems like onychomycosis (fungal nails) by destroying the fungus without harming the nearby tissues.
Low-level laser therapy has other applications, however. It is emerging as a very effective treatment for nerve problems in the feet, as it relieves pain as well as regenerates the cells. This has great promise for treatment of neuropathy, which is becoming an increasing concern as diabetes is expected to reach epic proportions in the coming years. LLLT can also be used to treat diabetic ulcers by increasing the cells’ natural healing processes and wound healing.
Chronic heel pain is another condition that may benefit from laser treatment. Reducing pain and inflammation from plantar fasciitis while stimulating repair of the ligament that supports the arch are real benefits, especially when the treatment comes with no known side effects.
Excellent Podiatric Care from Our Houston Foot Doctor
Dr. Robert Parker pioneered the use of laser therapy to treat nail fungus in the Houston area, and continues to learn and develop the latest uses in the growing field of laser treatment for foot problems. If you are tired of looking at those brittle, funny-colored nails and don’t want to risk the side effects of oral medications, call Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX by dialing (281) 497-2850 and set up your first appointment. You can also request one online contact form on our website. We’ll evaluate your nails and plan the best laser treatment schedule. Soon your new, healthy nails will begin replacing the ugly old ones, and you won’t be embarrassed to show your feet anymore. We’ll help you find relief from foot pain, inflammation and more, so you can enjoy life again.
14441 Memorial Drive, Suite #16
Houston, TX 77079
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00AM to 3:00PM