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Promising New Treatment for Fungal Nails
- August 19, 2012
by Dr Gurbir Mann
Close to one out of every five Americans is currently dealing with unsightly nail problems. However, the vast number of those affected with onychomycosis – a condition better known as a fungal nail infection – could begin to shrink in the future, thanks to a new laser treatment.
Onychomycosis is often ignored because the infection can be present for years without causing any pain. The disease is characterized by a progressive change in a toenail’s quality and color, which is often ugly and embarrassing.
In reality, the condition is an infection underneath the surface of the nail caused by fungi. When the tiny organisms take hold, the nail often becomes darker in color and foul smelling. Debris may collect beneath the nail plate, white marks frequently appear on the nail plate, and the infection is capable of spreading to other toenails, the skin, or even the fingernails. If ignored, the infection can spread and possibly impair one’s ability to work or even walk. This happens because the resulting thicker nails are difficult to trim and make walking painful when wearing shoes. Onychomycosis can also be accompanied by a secondary bacterial or yeast infection in or about the nail plate.
Because it is difficult to avoid contact with microscopic organisms like fungi, the toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers for example. Injury to the nail bed may make it more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails. Other contributing factors may be a history of athlete’s foot and excessive perspiration.
Traditionally, nail fungus has been difficult to treat, with many experiencing recurring outbreaks during treatment. Efficacy with oral therapies remains limited, and safety may be an issue, as oral medications may carry risks such as liver or kidney problems. Topical therapies as alternatives for onychomycosis are limited by lack of nail penetration and compliance issues, as most topical treatments require 12 months and are associated with lower success rates.
New device-related topical therapies, such as laser therapy, are particularly noteworthy, as they may allow for shorter, more convenient treatments for patients, reducing issues with topical compliance, and avoid potential for drug reactions.