If you’ve noticed white or yellow spotting or streaking on your toenail and are worried you’ve picked up a fungal nail infection – you’re not alone!
Fungal toenail infections, medically known as onychomycosis, affect approximately 10% of the population in Australia. Unfortunately, this rate only increases as we get older, with up to 50% of people over the age of 60 having one or more nails infected.
Fungal nail infections have caused much frustration for patients as traditionally, they have been challenging to treat successfully because of their easy spread and high re-infection rates.
Thankfully, My FootDr has taken advantage of the technological advancements in recent years, meaning that we can treat these infections more effectively than ever before using anti-fungal laser treatment. This means no more daily creams, lacquers or tablets.
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What causes a fungal nail infection?
Fungal nail infections are caused by the infiltration of the nail bed and nail plate by a fungus. While there are many types of fungus, including those that naturally move through the air outside, the kind of fungus that causes nail infections is most often spread through direct contact with someone that is infected. These infections are often picked up in public pool areas, changing rooms, public showers and gyms because fungus thrives in warm and moist environments. The fungus feeds on the keratin within your nails, which causes the damaged appearance. This means that once you have an infection, your sneakers and workboots can be an ideal space for the infection to grow and spread – so the earlier you start treating the infection, the easier it is.
Signs that you may have nail fungus include:
- A white or yellow discolouration or streaking of the nails
- Rougher nail ridges or thickened nails
- Crumbling, flaky or brittle nails
- The nail may start to lift up and come away at the end
How do we treat fungal nails?
We no longer recommend the use of creams, lacquers or sprays on their own because of the poor results from both clinical studies and our experience. Instead, we use two different types of laser to safely and effectively help treat fungal nail infections – with minimal hassle for you.
We have both hot and cold laser available at different clinics, and your podiatrist will recommend the best treatment option for you based on your symptoms and severity.
Hot and cold laser – what’s the difference?
Thermal (hot) laser treatment easily and effectively penetrates the nail and generates heat at the site of infection beneath the nail plate. The fungal cells are destroyed (before your healthy cells are damaged), meaning laser therapy is pain-free. All you will feel is a warm sensation at your nail.
Cold laser uses two low-level beams simultaneously on the nail to both damage the living fungus and help your body clear the infection. The frequency of the beams doesn’t generate any heat, hence they are called ‘cold’ lasers. This also means that the treatment is safe, pain-free and has no side effects.
Laser treatment does not require any local anaesthesia, and there is no recovery period. It’s a simple walk-in, walk-out procedure with no side effects and no visible harm to the nail or skin.
It’s important to note that nails have no living cells – even healthy-looking nails. This is an important point as a dead cell has no potential to fight off an infection and heal. This means that once the laser treatment is complete and the fungal cells have been destroyed, the damage from the fungus will not be reversed. As the healthy nail grows out, the damage will slowly disappear, though this will take several months.
Multisite clinical trials completed to date indicate success rates of at least 71%, although many practitioners who minimised cross-infection risks have reported success rates in excess of 88% making it the most effective treatment on the market.
What can you expect at a laser treatment appointment?
At My FootDr podiatry centres, we don’t just treat your fungus, but also help prevent it from coming back. Each new appointment starts with a comprehensive assessment to ensure that we select the best treatment for you, and really get to the cause of the problem. This includes:
- Confirming that you have a fungal nail infection (as opposed to another condition that appears like a fungal nail infection)
- A review of the cause of the infection, so we can address this
- A treatment plan outlining the most appropriate management, both short and long-term
- Measures to ensure that once the infection is eradicated, the chances for re-infection are minimised
Your first appointment takes approximately 30 minutes. Health fund rebates are available if you’re eligible for cover.
The number of treatments you will require is determined by the number of infected nails, severity of the fungal infection, your age and general health. Your podiatrist will advise on the number of laser therapy appointments recommended for your treatment, but generally, 3-6 treatments are required.