The Ins and Outs of Laser Toe Nail Fungus Treatment

Reviewed by Barry DiBernardo, MD

Unattractive toe nail fungus can take all the fun out of going barefoot. It can also cause embarrassment at the beach, pool or even in the locker room.

Until recently, toe nail fungus treatments involved taking medication for long periods of time, or daily use of creams and ointments. The oral medications could cause serious side effects such as liver problems, and the topical therapies involved a lot of time and effort. As such, they were never truly embraced by people with unsightly toe nail fungus.

Now two new lasers can zap away toe nail fungus in just one treatment.

What is Toe Nail Fungus?

Known medically as onychomycosis, nail fungal infections begin as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your nail. As the infection spreads, your nail may become discolored and thick, and develop crumbling edges. Some infected toe nails separate from the nail bed (onycholysis). An infected nail may smell and cause pain. These infections may be caused by mold, dermatophytes (skin fungus), and Candida yeast.

Are you a Candidate for Laser Toe Nail Fungus Treatment?

If you have a nail fungal infection, you may be a candidate for laser therapy. Perhaps you have tried topical treatments and achieved only lackluster results; or maybe you don't want to risk the side effects associated with oral agents.

If this is the case, consult with a local plastic surgeon about your laser options. There are currently a couple of lasers that can help eliminate toe nail fungus: Cutera's GenesisPlus and the Pinpoint Laser by Cynosure. Many plastic surgeons now offer these laser treatments for people with toe nail fungus.

What to Expect During Laser Toe Nail Fungus Treatment

Laser toe nail fungus therapy does not hurt. You may feel a warm sensation. No topical anesthetic is needed. If your toe nails are thickened from the fungal infection, your surgeon may shave down your nail before treatment. This will allow for greater penetration of the laser light and improved results. The laser light goes through the toenail and skin over the nail bed to kill the infection at its source. Only one treatment is necessary. The results, however, are not immediate. It takes nine to 12 months for the new nail to grow in. Some improvement can be seen within three months. It is possible to develop another fungal infection down the road.

Laser toe fungus treatment can cost $900 to $1,300. This treatment is not covered by insurance. If the cost is prohibitive, your surgeon may be willing to work with you and establish a payment plan. Start your search for a local plastic surgeon now.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Barry DiBernardo, MD, is the Medical Director of New Jersey Plastic Surgery in Montclair, NJ, and is a past President of the New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is an associate clinical professor in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and is on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.