Nail fungus is an infection that begins with a colored spot on the toenail or fingernail and later develops to crumble, discolor, and thicken the nail. Its medical name is Onychomycosis and affects about 10% of the adult population. At first, the condition might be mild and not bothering but may later be painful and could spread to other toenails, the fingernails, or even the skin if left untreated.
Causes and Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
Toenail Fungus is caused by pathogens such as molds, yeast, and dermatophytes common in the tropics, subtropics and the temperate regions. These types of fungi are mostly found in the dead layers of the skin and gradually involves the nail plate.
Although Onychomycosis can affect people of any sex and age, it is common in the toenails of the aged. Weakened immunity and reduced blood circulation are factors that play a role in causing Onychomycosis. Heavy sweating, spending much time in water, smoking, nail or skin injury, and diabetes are factors that increase the risk of developing Onychomycosis.
Infected nails usually become thick than normal and may be distorted. The nail might be separated from the bed making it break easily and have a yellowish or whitish discoloration. Debris build-up under the nail may cause a dark color on the skin around it accompanied by a slightly foul smell.
Types of Toenail Fungal Infections
One of the four common types of Onychomycosis is Distal Subungual Onychomycosis which is caused by nail and skin fragments which are confined under the nail. The infection causes the crumbling and splitting of the nail leading to discomfort when wearing shoes due to the amount of debris under the nail or the thickness of the nail.
The second type is White Superficial Onychomycosis which is caused by fungi that attack the plate of the nail creating a white appearance with a crumbly texture. The fungus makes the symptoms to quickly spreads to the entire surface but does not separate the nail with the skin.
The third infection is known as the Yeast infection or Candida Onychomycosis and affects both the nail and the skin around it. The skin around the nail swells and becomes tender leading to a gradual separation of the nail from the skin. Early treatment is recommended with first symptoms.
The fourth type is Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis which is common with people HIV and affects the base of the nail turning the entire area white. PSO separates the nail from the skin and affects both the fingernails and the toenails.
How Laser Treatment Works for Fungus Treatment
Lasers are the modern and technologically advanced methods of treating various human diseases. They are specially designed beams that produce heat in specific wavelength and sufficient strength which is absorbed differently by the tissue into which they are projected hence destroying it.
The unique feature of the laser therapy is that it spares the unaffected tissues and targets the affected ones. This feature helps in the laser medication with the beam going through the toenail and heating the pigment in the fungi thus destroying the Onychomycosis-causing organisms that are embedded in the nail. Other than the heating up approach, there is also the fractional CO2 laser that is used to burn holes and cracks in the nail to enhance penetration and effectiveness of drugs.
The procedure for laser therapy includes treatment sessions that take approximately 20 minutes. Most patients show improvement after the first session although some may require more sessions depending on the severity of the infection. The procedure is relatively comfortable with the patient experiencing a small hot pinch that ends quickly. The toenail becomes clear during the procedure accompanied by a warm sensation and a pinprick.
Results and Success Rate of Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus
After undergoing laser therapy patients can walk out of the room and continue with their normal activities. After a successful treatment, you see a healthy nail grow slowly up to a year for an entirely clean nail. Care techniques are highly recommended after laser medication to reduce the chances of recurrence which are high with the fungus being everywhere.
Since the treatment is new, there is scant information about the success of these approach as compared to others. However, there is substantial evidence that supports the efficacy of the therapy and suggests that although the treatment is not set for prime time, it is preferable in situations where other approaches have failed. Laser therapy appears to be more expensive than other forms of medical treatments.
Considering that the fungus is everywhere in the environment, there is a need to avoid the factors that contribute to the development of Onychomycosis. If you notice the symptoms, it is advisable to seek treatment to prevent the infection from spreading and live in comfort. Laser therapy t has proven to be the best alternative for it is modern and directly deals with the affected nail.