Toenail Fungus FAQ Update

toenail-treatment-2Since Dr. Christopher Toth has joined our treatment staff several months ago, he has treated many patients successfully from a wide geographic area of Maine and New Hampshire for toenail fungus with the Pinpointe Laser technology.  We have distributed much information about this technique through our website, newsletters, and this blog.

Many of you have asked some very interesting questions about the technology.  In today’s update, I compiled them together into an FAQ that I will probably include in the Pinpointe section of this website very soon:

What are the signs that I might have a fungal infection in my toenails?

You might have a toenail fungus infection if you have one or more of the following characteristics in one or more toenails:
  • Thickened nails
  • Brittle or crumbly nails
  • Distorted or abnormally shaped nails
  • Nails that have become dull in color compared to other nails
  • Darkened nails
  • Nails that are lifting up or have debris building up underneath them
  • Foul smelling nails

Is toenail fungus my fault?

Like many conditions, toenail fungus is never your fault.  There are ways to prevent it, but it’s not something you acquire by irresponsible actions or anything to that nature.

Onychomycosis, which is the medical term for toenail fungus, is a very common foot condition and affects about 10-12% of the population over their lifetime.  The fungus that gets under the nail and causes this infection is very small and thrives in warm and moist environments.

As a result, this infection is easy to pick up at public pools, showers, and gyms.  If someone in your household has this condition, you can pick it up in your home shower or bathroom.  Finally, and I warn women about this constantly, nail salons that don’t use proper disinfection techniques can transmit this fungus from one customer to another.

Are there any conditions that would make me prone to toenail fungus?

Yes.  Diabetics have a much higher risk of developing fungal nails up to 34% and a much higher risk also of complications.  Older age can also be a factor with up to 50% of those over 70 expected to develop fungal nails.

Can I prevent toenail fungus?

Wearing footwear such as flip-flops while using public pools, showers and gyms will help.  Avoid soaking your feet in whirlpool basins as the fungus can hide and grow in this moist and warm environment.

Carefully select any nail salon you may go to for manicure and pedicure and inquire as to how they sanitize their tools.  If they can demonstrate that they have appropriate disinfection procedures, go ahead; if not, walk away.

Do any of the treatments I can buy over-the-counter in the drugstore work?

Over-the-counter nail treatments applied directly to the nails can be challenging in that they have to be used for a long period of time (at least 12 months) and have limited success even if used for that time.

Any other treatments other than creams or lasers?
Yes.  There are oral anti-fungal treatments, but of concern is possible liver damage as its major side effect.  These oral pills still have to be taken for long periods of time (6-12 months), and there is no guarantee of success even with these risks.
How does the laser kill toenail fungus?
The simplest answer is heat.  The laser beam hitting the nailbed raises the temperature within and under the nail to a level which will kill the fungus.
The time consuming part is waiting for the nail to grow out and reveal the newer non-infected and normal appealing nail.  As noted previously, Dr. Toth and other doctors using this specific laser and this technique have a very high success rate after one treatment although some patients do require a second treatment.

If you have any other questions about this condition or this type of laser therapy, please give us a call at (207) 873-2158.  If you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr Toth, also feel free to call for his Wednesday time slots.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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