Lasers for toenail fungus treatment continue to emerge

By Lee Mather

It’s been known the past few years that heat and light produced by lasers effectively ‘fight the funk’ of onychomycosis, commonly known as toenail fungus. And numerous successful cases, coupled with a high rate of patient satisfaction, have been witnessed ever since. Recognizing this, laser dermatology specialist Celibre Medical (Torrance, CA) has added toenail fungus treatment to its offering.

Long-pulsed Nd:YAG (1064 nm) lasers from Cutera, NuvoLase, and Sciton (Brisbane, Chico, and Palo Alto, CA, respectively) have been cleared for toenail fungus treatment thus far, says Lori Haney, RN MEP-C, a certified medical laser safety officer at Celibre Medical. Pulsed dye lasers (585 and 595 nm) may also have effective outcomes for this condition by destroying the fungal microorganism, she says.

Traditional toenail fungus treatment involves a lengthy period of oral medication (lasting 2–6 months), which poses serious side effects like headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, and upset stomach. And patients often see a recurrence, leading 20–50% to begin again.

But laser treatments for toenail fungus—in a recommended series of three weekly sessions of less than 15 minutes—involve little discomfort (if any) each time and no known side effects, says Haney. What’s more, patients are able to wear shoes and walk as usual immediately afterward. Rate of recurrence is contingent on the patient complying with post-treatment instructions.

However, laser treatment for toenail fungus comes with a high price tag—around $1,000—which is not covered by insurance. Treatment will surely become more cost-effective as the market produces more laser options with more practitioners who offer it, Haney told BioOptics World. However, when comparing the costs of topical and oral medications, we must also factor in the “cost” of the health risks: notably, a potentially negative effect on liver function.

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