During my time in this practice I have heard toenail fungus described in many different ways, and none of them are nice. Gross, icky, thick, brittle, deformed, disfigured, discolored nails are one of the most common foot issues that we see. In most cases this is caused by a fungal infection of the toenails. Studies have estimated that up to 20-25% of the general population is affected by this ailment, and possibly up to 35% of diabetics.
Fortunately, in most cases this infection doesn’t cause any other health issues, and remains confined to the toes. For those that have this infection the main complaint is cosmetic. In some cases, however, the infected nails can lead to chronic pain due to nail thickening, or even chronic ingrown nails.
Over the years there have been many treatments attempted for this with most of them having rather dismal results. There are more over the counter topical treatments for this then I care to count, and even more “home remedies.” Unfortunately, these types of treatments rarely lead to much improvement in appearance, and even more rarely cure the infection.
Over the counter medication for the treatment of athlete’s foot has also been shown to have little effect. Treating this infection with oral antifungal medication has been shown to have better results than with topicals, but overall the cure rates with this medication have been disappointing.
A more recent advancement in treatment has been with laser therapy. We have been treating nail fungus with the PinPoint laser system for six years and have been very pleased with the results! This treatment involves direct laser therapy of the nails, which heats underneath the nail (where the fungus lives) to a temperature that kills the fungus but does not burn or harm your toe.
For most people this procedure involves 3-4 treatments which are spaced out every three months or so. However, the toenails take up to a year to fully grow out the infected nail and replace it with healthy nail. The treatment also involves regular use of topical anti-fungals to keep your skin as free from fungus as possible.
So, if you are currently wearing socks to the beach because you are embarrassed by your toenails, this treatment might be for you. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions or to schedule an appointment to have your nails evaluated. By this time next year, you may be able to ditch the socks and let your little piggies out to play again.