Nail fungus is not only annoying and embarrassing, but can also be hazardous to the health of your nail long-term. Although many topical ointments claim to cure the condition, because of their inability to penetrate the nail, the standardly prescribed treatment is oral medications. However, a new technology, hot laser therapy, is proving to be a successful, medication-free option.
According to Dr. Steven Ginex of Palm Desert Podiatry Center, nail fungus is actually an infection caused by a germ common in the environment. It is the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot and the two often appear simultaneously. Most people think they get it at the gym, but you can get it from simply walking around on moist surfaces.
“Nail fungus is quite common and we see a lot of cases in our practice,” says Dr. Ginex. As for the cause, he says studies show it can run in families – and not just those who live in the same environment – demonstrating a genetic disposition. And some people are more susceptible than others. “Nail fungus in the foot is more common for people with diabetes and poor circulation because their bodies can’t fight off the infection.”
How does the therapy work? Using heat (versus a cold laser like those used for pain), the laser penetrates the nail and the heat kills the fungus. Ginex recommends 2-3 treatments, 2-3 months apart depending on how much fungus there is. “This therapy still takes time to work and depends on how quickly your nails grow,” he adds. Your metabolism determines this factor, and he does not believe there is science to support that nails grow quicker during certain times of the year. “There is no immediate improvement, but as the nail grows out, it grows clear, which is what we want to see.”
Nail fungus is contagious and does spread to other areas which is a good reason to treat it sooner than later.
It can also lead to a nail thickening over time which can cause nail deformity. “Once the nail gets too thick, it damages the root and causes it to continue to grow thicker which is difficult to reverse.”
Ginex uses the PinPointe FootLaser, one of an estimated four on the market FDA-cleared specifically for nail fungus. According to their website, clinical studies have shown an 80% effective success rate.
“In our practice, we find laser therapy very effective in treating nail fungus,” says Dr. Ginex. “It is also safer than medications which must be taken for three months up to a year and don’t standardly, but can have side effects.” No side effects have been reported from the laser therapy other than a slight irritation for a few days following treatment. The only contra indicator is for those very sensitive to light (as in Albinism).
Dr. Steven Ginex is the Director of Palm Desert Podiatry Center. He has been practicing in the desert for 15 years and can be reached at (760) 340.3232.