Laser Fungus Nail Treatment Birmingham
WHAT IS NAIL FUNGUS?
Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis) are very common – affecting up to one in ten of the UK population. Toenail fungus 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 smells foul. 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 your ability to work or even walk. 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.
This video clip from Channel 4’s Embarrassing Illnesses series describes one man’s nail fungal problem.
WHAT CAUSES NAIL FUNGUS?
Fungal nail infections occur as a result of the fungi that cause athlete's foot infecting the nailThese fungi often live harmlessly on your skin, but they can sometimes multiply and lead to infections. The fungi prefer warm, dark and moist places like the feet.
HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE NAIL FUNGUS?
Many people affected by nail fungus would have noticed changes in the texture, quality and colour of their nails. It can take some time before this becomes significant and even more time before any treatment or medical advice is sought. In the case of fingernails it is sometimes only evident once nail varnish or gels have been removed.
Typical first signs are a yellowing or brown discolouration of the tip or an area within the nail. Initially there may be a slight lifting of the end of the nail. There can be dry skin around the nail or chalky debris underneath also.
In clinic, diagnosis is made after discussion about the progression together with an inspection of the nail. The characteristic colour changes of brown, yellow, white or orange and crumbling or thickening of the nail are highly diagnostic. The nail often shows longitudinal lines of discolouration extending back from the tip. A nail sample can be sent for culture in some cases to confirm diagnosis if there is doubt, although this is not always conclusive. Colour and texture changes of the nail together with signs of athlete’s foot – whiteness between toes, red border and scales to the foot, small pus dots around the arch and border or itchiness – are considered to be diagnostic.
HOW DO I PREVENT NAIL FUNGUS?
Toenail fungal infections are most often caused by microscopic organisms called dermatophytes. These organisms feed on keratin, the protein found in nails and hair.
Healthy feet depend on good hygiene, so it’s important to keep your toes clean and dry. Follow these seven tips to avoid a toenail fungal infection:
1. Clip your toenails correctly. Cut your toenails with properly sanitized nail scissors or clippers and make sure to cut them straight across. Andersen says it’s fine to use a nail file to gently file any sharp edges.
2. Wear properly fitted shoes. “Shoes shouldn’t be touching your toenails in any way,” Andersen says. “Avoid sliding into shoes that are too big and jamming your toenails into the end of the shoe.” The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends buying shoes with a wide toe box that won’t cramp your toes.
3. Choose breathable footwear. The more air that’s able to circulate around your feet, the drier and less susceptible to toenail fungus they’ll be. Your best bets: Shoes made of a breathable material like leather or canvas, according to the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine.
4. Alternate your shoes. Putting on shoes that are still damp from yesterday’s sweaty workout will only increase your risk of a toenail fungal infection, so invest in a few good pairs and rotate them. “Don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row,” Andersen says. “Allow them to air out between wearings.” And make sure they’re placed out in the open where they can dry thoroughly.
5. Avoid going barefoot in public areas. Locker rooms, public pools, showers, and similar areas are loaded with fungi just waiting to get to your toes. “Always wear flip-flops, sandals, or shower shoes in a moist environment,” Andersen says.
6. Disinfect regularly. Scrub your shower and disinfect it with a bleach-based cleanser, Andersen says. Spray your shoes with an antibacterial spray, especially if you’ve worn them without socks, and wash all socks in hot water with bleach to kill any fungi. Also wash your feet daily, making sure to thoroughly dry them afterward, especially between the toes where moisture can get trapped.
7. Sprinkle your shoes. Use an antifungal powder to keep fungi at bay. Sprinkle the powder inside your socks and shoes before each wearing to prevent the growth of fungi spores, suggests the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine. This is especially important in hot weather when your feet tend to sweat more.
WHY USE A LASER?
Medicine has benefited significantly from the use of lasers. Specifically within dermatology, advances in laser technology have allowed the development of lasers to target fungal cells. Over the past 5 years the advances have been significant initially using heat delivered with the laser and its infra-red 1064nm beam.
Fungus is contained within the nail complex and the lasers are able to target these fungal cells directly without the risks involved when oral medication is taken or the long period of time required when applying topical medicines that aren’t able to penetrate to the nail bed.
Lasers have no detrimental effect on healthy skin or nail and require no anaesthetic. They are not surgical and there is no recovery period or effect on activity after treatment.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A TREATMENT
The treatment process is started with a consultation where the presence of nail fungus will be established. The symptoms, signs and progression are discussed, together with any treatment options. We would then be able to discuss the expectations of treatment and likely results, along with being able to answer any of your questions. The nails can be thinned and tidied with a nail drill to remove any thickening and fungal debris if required. Photographs are taken for comparative purposes and monitoring of your results.
The number and length of sessions will be determined during the consultation and will depend on the amount of damage caused by the fungus, the duration of the infection and the amount of fungus present.
The laser beam is applied over the infected nails and the skin surrounding them, alternating horizontal and vertical passes to ensure the treatment of all the infected area. Laser energy penetrates up to the nail bed, destroying fungi. Each treatment session is about 20-30 minutes for both feet.
Antifungal cream or spray is applied to the foot. Preventative advice is given and you receive a footcare pack to take away. Since fungal nail infection is caused by contact with fungi, if care is not taken to improve levels of hygiene and reduce fungi living on the skin naturally, it can recur.
We have a variety of products available to purchase to assist in maintaining the long-term health of your feet. These include antifungal shoe spray and fungal treatments.
Will it improve the look of your nails?
The eradication of infection does not always improve the appearance of the nail, as this may be due to previous trauma or trauma caused by the fungus itself. The goals of treatment of onychomycosis are mycological cure and clinical recovery of the nail. Since the nail has a slow growth rate (0.1 mm / day fingernails and 0.03-0.05 mm / day toenails), it will take months to recover their normal appearance. The final test of mycological cure is negative laboratory findings (there is an additional charge for this investigation) . Relapses after treatment are common and may be due to reinfection or incomplete eradication of the original fungus or not following the aftercare instructions given by the podiatrist. A nail can take 12-15 months to grow, the results may not be visible until after three months after the last application of laser. After treatment and even during the treatment, the nail may get reinfected, it is important to follow the aftercare instructions.
We advise changing into a fresh pair of socks following treatment.
All our podiatrists adhere to the MHRA (Regulating Medicines and Medical Devices) 2008 guidance for Healthcare Professional Professionals using lasers.
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