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American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Laser Treatment of Toenail Fungus

Some people who have never before had success with other fungal therapies are finally seeing improvement in the appearance of their nails with laser treatment.

UPMC Hamot Plastic Surgery uses a laser procedure, called ClearToe, to treat toenail fungus (onychomycosis). This advanced laser technology and real-time temperature monitoring enables safe and effective treatment of nail fungus.

Frequently Asked Questions About Toenail Fungus and Laser Treatment

Click on the questions below to read more about laser treatment for toenail fungus.

What does toenail fungus look like?

The toenail often looks:

  • Discolored
  • Yellow
  • Unsightly
  • Crooked
  • Thick

Nails may become rough or crumbly and may even separate from the nail bed.

What are the common causes of toenail fungus?

Causes of toenail infections are:

  • Dermatophyte fungi (Tinea unguium)
  • Yeasts such as Candida albicans
  • Nondermatophyte molds

Other causes of toenail fungus include:

  • Humidity
  • Heat
  • Trauma
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Athlete's foot

What's so exciting and promising about laser treatment for toenail fungus?

Previous treatments for nail fungal infections, like topical creams and antifungal medicines, were largely ineffective or undesirable.

Topical treatment creams can't penetrate deeply enough to kill the fungus and are about 10 percent effective. Oral antifungal medications can be toxic to the liver and kidney and are only 30 percent effective.

Studies have shown laser treatments to be the most effective method to treat this condition, with an 80 percent or greater success rate.

Treatments take 10 to 20 minutes, and there is no downtime. More than one treatment may be required, depending on the severity of the infection.

How does laser treatment work?

The ClearToe laser allows us to kill the organisms that cause toenail fungal infections. The laser heats the nail and the nail bed with laser energy, effectively and safely eradicating the fungus and promoting the growth of clear nails.

This treatment is relatively painless.

Are there health or age restrictions for receiving laser toenail fungus treatment?

Generally, there are no health or age restrictions.

In most clinical studies involving laser toenail fungus treatment there were no negative reactions, contraindications, or side effects.

How often will I need laser toenail fungus treatment?

This depends on the severity of the infection, as determined by the physician evaluating your condition.

What are the costs of laser nail fungus treatment?

The cost for laser nail fungus is based on the severity of the infection and whether one foot or both feet are treated.

Our physicians make the determination about the number of treatments you will need.

What are the post-treatment recommendations?

You may resume normal activity immediately following treatment. Laser toenail fungal treatment is part of an overall protocol that your doctor will prescribe.

We recommend the following:

  • Wear new shoes and wash your socks thoroughly after treatment to prevent the spread of fungus. Throw your old shoes out or the fungi may return to the nails.
  • Practice good foot hygiene. Pay attention to your own home, shower, and bath mat. And check your shoes.
  • Avoid moist, wet environments such as public showers, pools, and locker rooms.
  • Be careful when you go for a pedicure.

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