The microbes that cause toenail fungus are lurking everywhere in our environment — on gym floors, near swimming pools, on our clothing, and in our own backyards. Not surprisingly, 1 out of 10 adults will develop onychomycosis at some point. The nail swells, yellows, and becomes brittle at the edges. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to get rid of as it is to catch. Laser nail fungus removal represents the latest advance in onychomycosis treatment, but it’s expensive. The question remains: Is laser treatment for fungal nails really worth it?
What Is Laser Nail Fungus Removal Like?
Treatments can be done in a clinical outpatient setting in just 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on the severity of the fungal infection, it could take one to four treatments. It’s not fully understood how the laser kills the fungus, but some experts say it prompts the body’s own natural defenses to clear the nail.
Why Is Laser Nail Treatment Better Than Other Therapies?
Other than laser therapy, it is said the best fungal nails treatment out there is Lamisil, an oral medication that must be taken daily for 90 days. The downside to Lamisil is that it only works on two out of three people, and it has been associated with rare cases of liver damage so people taking it will have to go to the doctor for regular liver function tests. This medication is not cheap, either — costing $250 to $1,500 to complete the course of treatment. Inexpensive topical medications are essentially useless — working less than 10% of the time.
How Much Does It Cost To Eliminate Nail Fungus With Lasers?
Laser nail fungus removal costs $995 to $1,200 on average, depending on the state, the clinic, the number of toes infected, the thickness of the nails, and the type of laser used. Unfortunately, insurance companies deem this a “cosmetic procedure,” so they can get out of paying for it. People with Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Medical Individual Retirement Accounts (Medical IRA) or other Flexible Medical Spending Accounts (Medical FSA) can use these funds to cover the procedure. Otherwise, it will need to be paid for out-of-pocket.
Does It Work? Is Laser Nail Fungus Removal Worth The Cost?
New Jersey podiatrist Anas Khoury says the laser treatment works for about 80% of his patients once the fungal nail grows out. A clinical trial found that the Noveon laser worked in more than a third of patients, which is not very impressive. However, Nomir published a small company-funded study that found 85% of the nails demonstrated new growth without fungus. PinPointe supplied The Wall Street Journal with unpublished data from 265 patients suggesting a 71.4% success rate after one year.
As Dr. Bryan C. Markinson told the WSJ, “Patients and some doctors have this expectation that because it’s a laser treatment, once you zap it and its gone forever. That totally ignores the fact that this is an infectious disease and that recurrence is a certainty” — unless good prevention methods are in place. For this reason, many doctors and podiatrists recommend limiting one’s exposure to pathogens by sanitizing the shoes with the SteriShoe UV light sanitizer each day to kill up to 99.9% of the fungus harbored there.
So the answer is: Yes, fungal nail removal is worth the money — but only if you are willing to work toward prevention.