Toenail fungus is a pretty dreaded condition that is unsightly and takes a long time to go away. Approximately 12 percent of Americans get nail fungus, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. (1)
Onychomycosis is the medical name for nail fungus. It causes the nails to become thickened, flakey and discolored.
There are a variety of over-the-counter or alternative therapies intended to rid one of nail fungus but in severe cases oral medications may be used.
The problem with oral medications is that they increase the risk of liver or heart problems as well as potentially causing various other side effects including GI problems, hair loss or muscle weakness. (4)
How lasers work to reduce nail fungus is not entirely understood. It is believed by some that the laser actually kills the fungus while others think the laser simply inhibits fungal growth, allowing the body’s natural immune system to fight the infection.
According to the Washington Post, PinPointe USA Inc. was the first to received FDA authorization in October 2010. The FDA cleared a second company, GenesisPlus, in April 2011. A few more companies have also received FDA approval for their laser devices.
Lasers had been used “off label” for the treatment of toenail fungus for years under the umbrella of treatment use for other dermatology conditions.
One of the biggest deterrents in receiving laser treatments for toenail fungus is the cost. The Wall Street Journal reports that treatment courses ranges in price from $750 to $1500 and is not likely to be covered by insurance. Depending on the severity of the toenail fungus one to four treatments are needed and take 30 to 45 minutes.
Few scientific studies indicate that there is solid evidence of its effectiveness. Normir published a small short-term study of 34 patients who had 26 eligible toes treated in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medicine Association, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The study took final measurements six months after laser treatment and found 65 percent showed three millimeters or more of clear new nail growth and 26 percent had at least four millimeters. (5)