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Pros and Cons of Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus

By PureHealth Research Jun 16, 2024

Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Our Experts

Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Our Experts

Medically reviewed by 8 min read

Medically reviewed by 4 citations

a doctor applying a laser treatment to a toenail, showing detailed view of the infected toenail and the laser device

Searching for the pros and cons of laser treatment for toenail fungus? You’ve just landed in the right place! This particular process has a number of positive aspects that make it popular. It’s a viable option for those who want to overcome some of the problems with other remedies. For example, the approach is more effective as it destroys the fungus and restores your nails to their original shape and color. Whereas the standard alternatives have enhanced levels of toxicity, laser treatment has no adverse effects. 

This blog post explores the advantages and disadvantages of laser therapy and the problems of conventional treatments. It also discusses alternatives to laser therapy, the duration of the treatment procedure, and what to consider before choosing the technique. 

Key Article Findings

  • Pros: It has high levels of safety, efficiency, and promptness. Additionally, it has minimal side effects and effectively targets the infected tissues. While the standard treatment options take a long time, laser treatment is quick.
  • Cons: The main drawbacks of laser treatment include the high chances of infections recurring, the lack of assurance, and the need for patients to wait to give their nails time to improve.
  • Various other options exist, including topical medications, oral drugs, and home remedies. These alternatives have different negatives and positives that you need to weigh down should you wish to explore them. 

What Is Laser Treatment?

Laser treatment is an intervention approach that involves guiding and applying a strong beam of light to a toenail suffering from a fungus infection. Once this amplified light heats the infected parts, it kills the fungus that causes the condition. The treatment’s results depend on various factors, such as the machine used, the kind of laser therapy applied, and the acuteness of the disease.

This treatment approach involves directing heat generated by a laser device to the toenail, penetrating the underlying area where the fungal infection occurs. Once the infected tissue receives the heat, it changes into a gaseous state, leading to the destruction of the fungus. Thanks to its sterilizing ability, laser heat makes it impossible to develop new fungal cells.

How Effective Is Laser Treatment for Nail Fungus?

a healthcare professional using a specialized tool for treating toenail fungus on a patient's foot in a clinical setting

A considerable margin of the whole population suffers from this condition. But what does toenail fungus look like? It has multiple symptoms, including discolored, broken, and thick toenails. 

There are three stages of toenail fungus infestation, including the early, moderate, and later phases. While there are multiple treatment options, the popularity of laser treatment is increasing.

A common question from many is about how effective this approach is. Laser treatment for nail fungus utilizes two techniques: YAG and CO2 lasers. According to PubMed Central, YAG laser treatment has a restorative rate of 63%. The same study shows that the success rate of the CO2 laser is 74%. Individuals using laser treatment report an improvement of the condition in at least two months. The procedure provides a better alternative for the treatment of toe fungus as it comes with nil side effects.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus?

Although laser treatment has proven effective, the technique still has some downsides. Learning about these two sides will aid you in making the right decision. Here are the main pros and cons of laser treatment for toenail fungus.

Pros

Many individuals embrace this alternative because it offers them various benefits. Here are the main advantages you should know:

1. It’s Efficient

The efficiency of a treatment option is an essential factor you should assess when choosing a therapy for toenail fungus. Compared with antifungal topical solutions, laser treatment is effective. It works by penetrating your toenail and removing much of the disease. On the other hand, other techniques, like topical therapies, target large external areas and take time to achieve desired outcomes. Thus, you’re likely to obtain a higher success rate when using laser treatment.

2. Faster Treatment

Toenail fungus can be debilitating and require quick intervention. If you suffer from this condition, laser treatment can deliver prompt results after just a couple of sessions. With this technique, you avoid trying multiple treatment techniques that have adverse side effects. Furthermore, other treatment options might only partially reduce the condition, exposing you to recurring infections.

3. Barely Any Possible Side Effects

Safety is one of the reasons that this therapy is a better option. Unlike antifungal treatments, such as bleach for toenail fungus, that present side effects, laser therapy is safe and has zero adverse effects. Furthermore, laser treatment lacks the drug interactions present in oral therapies. It’s the best method for patients who cannot condone the side effects of oral drugs. Are you searching for a trouble-free and noninvasive procedure? If yes, laser treatment is your best bet.

Cons

Although effective, this treatment is not without its negatives. Here are the main cons to consider:

1. No Guarantee That It Will Work

Despite its high success rate, this treatment does not guarantee total fungal elimination. This means some patients may require several sessions to clear the infection completely.

2. You Still Need to Wait for It to Heal

Once you receive the treatment, you need to give your toenails time to heal. Your nails will only show their best shape when they grow out. So, it’s essential to be patient and wait until they regenerate.

3. The Infection Might Occur Again

While the potency of laser treatment is high, fungus infestations are known to dodge many therapies. This means that the infection might reoccur even if you apply laser treatment.

Things to Consider for Laser Toenail Fungus Treatment

a doctor in full protective gear using advanced equipment to perform a laser treatment on a patient's toenail in a clinical environment

Early treatment of toenail fungus can deter further growth of the condition to nearby parts. But can toenail fungus spread internally? In short, the infection can expand internally in rare instances. However, the condition can only reach your bones if your immune system is weak due to other diseases.

Upon noticing the signs of the infection, it’s advisable to seek prompt treatment. Remember, it’s easy to stop the condition when it’s in its early phases.

Still, an effective strategy for shielding yourself against the condition is to use preventive strategies. There are multiple techniques you can use to put the condition at bay, including drying your shoes, wearing breathable footwear, and changing socks after sweating. Other preventive measures include boosting toenail health with dietary supplements and avoiding sharing toenail clippers.

How Long Does the Procedure Take?

A typical laser treatment for toenail fungus requires around 40 minutes for the two feet. The duration depends on various factors, including the seriousness of the disease and the number of nails requiring intervention. Usually, you’ll expect four to six sessions spread over four to six weeks. The subsequent treatments help to clear any fungi that may grow after the first intervention. Typically, patients will notice improvements after the initial treatment.

Alternative Treatments

close-up of a doctor examining and treating severe toenail fungus on an elderly patient's foot in a medical office

There are various approaches you can use to treat the fungal condition. Let’s briefly review some of them: 

  • Topical Applications – Antifungal topical creams are one way of combating toenail fungus. Once you rub the medication on the infected area, it’ll spread into the diseased tissues. For the best results, it’s better to thin your nails. Also, you need to use the medicines as instructed by your healthcare provider. This alternative has various side effects, including swelling, burning sensations, and rash.
  • Oral Antifungal Drugs – These are drugs patients take through the mouth. They support the regeneration of new nails by getting rid of the diseased ones. Usually, patients take these drugs for 4-9 months, depending on the acuteness of the condition. The main downside of oral antifungal medicines is that their success rate is low. Furthermore, they’ve severe side effects, including liver damage.
  • Home Remedies – There are several home remedies that you can consider when treating toenail fungus. While these treatments can provide some improvement, their effectiveness sometimes makes them undesirable. Thus, combining home remedies with other treatment alternatives is important for desirable outcomes. Some home treatments include methanol products and essential oils.

Conclusion

Laser treatment is a popular option due to its multiple draws. Before you pick the right approach for you, it’s advisable to equip yourself with information.

Does Insurance Cover Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus

No, it is a procedure viewed as artistic by health insurance providers. Therefore, they do not cover it. 

Is Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus Worth It?

Yes, it is. Thanks to its effectiveness, quickness, and general lack of adverse effects on patients, it’s well worth it. 

What Is the Success Rate of Laser Fungal Nail Treatment?

The effectiveness of this technique sits at around 90%. Considering this, it’s an approach worth pursuing to treat toenail fungal infections. 

1.

Zalacaín, A., et al. (2017). Clinical laser treatment of toenail onychomycoses. Lasers in Medical Science.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5911271/
2.

Ferrari, J. (2011). Fungal toenail infections. PubMed Central (PMC).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275109/
3.

Ma, W., Chen, S., et al. (2019). Laser treatment for onychomycosis. Medicine, 98(48), e17948.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6890331/
4.

Weber, G. C., et al. (2018). Treatment of onychomycosis using a 1064-nm diode laser with or without topical antifungal therapy: a single-center, retrospective analysis in 56 patients. European Journal of Medical Research.

https://eurjmedres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40001-018-0340-y

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Advertisement. This site offers health, wellness, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.