Do you have a finger or toe nail that is discoloured, thicken, uncomfortable, brittle, distorted or crumbling into small pieces? If the answer is yes, then it’s very likely that you have a fungal nail infection; and have probably had it for some time. Fungal nail infections within finger or toe nails are more common than you may think, with estimates of between 3 and 8 out of every 100 people in the UK having had one at some point in their lives, affecting both men and women.
Generally, it affects toe nails more than finger nails as our feet spend most of their time in hot, sweating shoes and socks, which is an ideal place for fungi to grow; where it’s warm and moist. Commonly, fungal nail infections are a case of athlete’s foot which has moved from just being in between the toes to infecting the nail. Once resident, these, otherwise harmless fungi or yeasts, multiply, and low and behold infection begins and the nail is slowly destroyed – changing colour, losing its structure and possibly becoming uncomfortable or even painful.
Infection is not considered to be a serious medical concern, and is mostly just unpleasant. They are often difficult and time consuming to treat, especially with products often prescribed by your GP or sold by a Pharmacist that require you to paint on a liquid and file the nail repeatedly for several months; leading many to just give up and admit defeat.
Nails with an active infection are unattractive, meaning that both men and women may choose to hide affected nails, by not going bare foot in the summer, wearing flip flop style shoes or in the case of women, hiding the infection beneath brightly coloured nail varnish.
This hiding or camouflaging can go on for years as no suitable or reliable treatment has been found for the fungal nail infection. But, you need not hide or put up with the symptoms of fungal nail infections any longer as at Hilton Skin Clinics in Reading we can treat them using laser – specifically a 1064nm wavelength Nd:YAG laser (Q-switched and long-pulsed, high repetition rate) called the ClearChoice™ which we have on our new Harmony XL Pro™ platform from Alma Lasers.
The medical name for fungal nail infection is onychomycosis.
In the first instance, having good foot (or hand) hygiene (such as regular cleaning, not letting them get too sweaty etc.) will help to stop the infection getting worse and spreading to other nails, but usually the next step is a decision to see your local General Practitioner (GP) or Pharmacist for advice.
Treatment options prescribed by the NHS or purchased over-the-counter include anti-fungal tablets, taken once or twice a day for around six months, (these can have some nasty side effects so are only used for severe infections); special anti-fungal nail varnishes painted onto the nail, with nail filing in between, for several months; or a paste which is used to soften the nail in the area infected, so much so that it can be more easily ‘scraped away’.
All of these treatment options require repeated and committed use, and are not always successful if the infection is moderate to severe and the treatment regime is not targeted enough to kill off the yeast. They can take several months to years before improvement is seen or the infection is controlled.
You will not find your GP offering the most successful and quickest option for treating onychomycosis though – the destruction of the fungus using a high-energy powered laser – as this is only available from private clinics like ours.
Using the ClearChoice laser we can send powerful bursts of light directly through the part of the nail you see – the nail plate – directly to the nail bed below where the fungus has made its home. Much like the light from hair removal lasers is absorbed into the pigment or melanin of the hair follicle to destroy it, the laser light in this treatment is absorbed by the pigment in the fungus or yeasts which colonise the area. This causes them to heat up and ultimately be destroyed – no fungus means no more continued infection and the nail bed can be left to get on with growing more, healthy nail to replace the damaged nail plate above.
No other surrounding tissue is targeted by the laser light, making it a safe and effective weapon against nail fungus. Treatment, i.e. the destruction of the infection is successful after one treatment in most cases; depending on the severity you may need a repeat treatment, but we will follow-up to keep a check on it.
Over time, the overlying nail will grow a new, healthy nail plate, unaffected by discolouration or brittleness, until all signs of damage have been removed by you as nail clippings. Regrowth of a whole big toe nail can take over a year, but you will see in the immediate weeks and months following treatment that the fungal infection has been destroyed as healthy nail starts to become more visible.
Of course, we can’t guarantee that you’ll never get a fungal nail infection in your finger or toe nails ever again, but at least we can guarantee that we have the kit to zap it and stop it in its track for you before it takes hold!
If you’d like more information about treatments for fungal nail infections, then please contact Hilton Skin Clinics in Reading today to book a consultation.