Treating Onychomycosis With Laser Light

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Onychomycosis is a fungal infection usually caused by a special type of fungus known as a dermatophyte. These sorts of fungi are generally confined to the dead, horny outer layers of the skin and gradually progress to involve the nail plate. Onychomycosis is particularly common in toenails of older men but can affect of the nails of individuals of any age and sex. The treatment of this condition is complicated by the fact that these fungi live in dead tissue, and getting medications to these sites is problematic.

Since most of these infections are relatively superficial, it would seem that topical treatments ought to work well. This is not the case because the nail unit is relatively impenetrable. In addition, it is common for these infections to be entirely asymptomatic (not producing symptoms) which doesn't seem to diminish the patient's distress with the unpleasant appearance of the nail. A perfect treatment modality would be inexpensive, very effective, and very safe. Sadly, we have not achieved this perfect situation yet.

Currently accepted treatments include relatively ineffective topical therapies and oral treatments which are reasonably effective but are associated with some degree of risk. Both approaches require a long duration of treatment and are somewhat costly. Most experts agree that surgical approaches like removing the nail plate are ineffective.

It is into this environment that the use of lasers has been thrust. Of course, lasers are a very sexy, modern, technologically advanced approach to the treatment of a variety of human diseases. Lasers produce coherent light energy of a sufficient strength and of a specific wavelength which when projected into tissue is differentially absorbed by the target material, producing heat and hence tissue destruction. Other tissue components are unaffected and so spared. Medical lasers are rather expensive devices, so treatments with these machines requires generally quite high fees to recoup the original purchase price of the equipment.