Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus: A Comprehensive Guide


If you’re dealing with the frustrating and embarrassing problem of toenail fungus, you’re not alone.


Many people struggle with this common condition, which can cause discolored, thickened, and brittle nails.

While there are several treatment options available, laser therapy has emerged as a popular and effective choice.

Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus

Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus

Picture Credit:


In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at laser treatment for toenail fungus, covering everything from how it works to what you can expect during and after the procedure.

What is Toenail Fungus?

Before we dive into the specifics of laser treatment, let’s briefly discuss what toenail fungus is. Also known as onychomycosis, toenail fungus is a fungal infection that affects the nail and surrounding skin.

It’s caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, which thrive in warm, moist environments like sweaty shoes and public showers.

Symptoms of toenail fungus include:

  • Discolored nails (yellow, brown, or white)
  • Thickened, brittle, or crumbly nails
  • Nails that separate from the nail bed
  • A foul odor coming from the affected nails

Benefits of Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus

So, why choose laser therapy over other treatments like oral medications or topical ointments? Here are some key benefits:

  1. High success rate: Studies have shown that laser treatment can be highly effective at eliminating toenail fungus. One study found a 61% cure rate after just 16 weeks, while another showed 91% clinical improvement and a 30% cure rate after 180 days.
  2. Minimal side effects: Unlike oral antifungal medications, which can cause liver damage and other serious side effects, laser therapy is generally safe with few risks. The most common side effects are mild pain and bleeding around the treated area.
  3. No downtime: Laser treatment is a quick, in-office procedure that doesn’t require any downtime. You can resume your normal activities immediately after the session.
  4. Faster results: While oral medications can take several months to work, many people see noticeable improvement after just a few laser treatments.

Pros and Cons of Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus:

As with any medical treatment, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider. Here’s a quick overview:


  • High cure rates
  • Minimal side effects
  • No downtime
  • Faster results than oral medications


  • Can be expensive, especially if multiple treatments are needed
  • Not covered by most insurance plans
  • May require several sessions for optimal results
  • Doesn’t work for everyone

How Laser Treatment Works?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a closer look at how laser therapy works to eliminate toenail fungus.

The procedure involves using a specialized laser device that emits pulses of energy at specific wavelengths.

These wavelengths are absorbed by the fungal cells, causing them to heat up and ultimately die.

There are several types of lasers used for this purpose, including:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers
  • Yttrium-aluminum-garnet (YAG) lasers
  • Diode lasers

During the treatment, the laser energy penetrates through the nail and into the nail bed where the fungus lives. The heat generated by the laser damages the fungal cells, inhibiting their growth and eventually killing them off.

It’s important to note that laser therapy doesn’t destroy all of the fungus in one session. Most people need multiple treatments spaced several weeks apart to fully eradicate the infection. On average, four sessions are needed, but this can vary depending on the severity of the fungus.

Where is Laser Treatment Performed?

If you’re interested in pursuing laser therapy for your toenail fungus, you’ll need to find a qualified provider. The procedure is typically performed by a dermatologist who specializes in cosmetic treatments. When searching for a provider, look for the following:

  • Board certification in dermatology.
  • Experience with laser nail fungus treatment.
  • Positive reviews and testimonials from past patients.
  • Clean, professional office environment.

Most dermatologists offer free or low-cost consultations to determine if you’re a good candidate for laser therapy. During this appointment, they’ll examine your nails, discuss your medical history, and explain the treatment process in detail.


Safety of Laser Treatment

One of the biggest advantages of laser therapy is its excellent safety profile. Unlike oral antifungal medications, which can cause serious side effects like liver damage, lasers have very few risks when used properly.

The most common side effects of laser treatment are:

  • Mild pain or discomfort during the procedure
  • Slight bleeding around the treated nails
  • Temporary redness and swelling

These side effects are generally well-tolerated and resolve quickly on their own. Rarely, more serious complications like burns or scarring can occur if the laser is used improperly. That’s why it’s so important to choose an experienced, qualified provider.

Laser therapy is also a good option for people who can’t take oral antifungal medications due to health issues like liver or kidney disease. It’s completely non-invasive and drug-free, making it safe for most individuals.


Other Treatment Options for Toenail Fungus

While laser therapy is a highly effective treatment for toenail fungus, it’s not the only option available.

Some other common treatments include:

  • Topical medications: These are creams, ointments, or lacquers that you apply directly to the affected nails. They work by penetrating the nail plate and killing the fungus underneath. Examples include ciclopirox (Penlac) and tavaborole (Kerydin).
  • Oral medications: Antifungal pills like terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox) are sometimes prescribed for more severe cases of toenail fungus. They work systemically to eradicate the fungus from within the body. However, they can cause side effects like liver damage and drug interactions.
  • Nail removal: In rare cases where the fungus is extremely stubborn or painful, the infected nail may need to be surgically removed. A new nail will usually grow back in its place, although it may take up to a year.

Here’s a quick comparison of these treatments:

Treatment Pros Cons
Laser therapy High cure rates, minimal side effects, no downtime Expensive, not covered by insurance, may require multiple sessions
Topical medications Easy to use, few side effects Lower cure rates must be used daily for several months
Oral medications Effective for severe cases, work systemically Can cause serious side effects, and require regular liver function tests
Nail removal Definitive treatment for stubborn fungus Invasive, painful, long recovery time

Ultimately, the best treatment option for you will depend on the severity of your fungus, your overall health, and your personal preferences. Your dermatologist can help you weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.


What to Expect After Laser Treatment?

If you decide to pursue laser therapy for your toenail fungus, here’s what you can expect during and after the procedure:

  • During the treatment: You’ll be seated comfortably while the dermatologist preps your foot and positions the laser device over the affected nails. The laser will be pulsed on and off for several minutes, during which you may feel a warm or tingling sensation. Most people tolerate this quite well, but if you experience any pain, the provider can adjust the laser settings.
  • Immediately after: Your nails may feel warm and sensitive for a few hours after the treatment. You can resume normal activities right away, but your dermatologist may give you some special instructions for caring for your feet in the days following the procedure.
  • The next few weeks: Don’t expect to see results overnight. Even after successful laser therapy, it can take several months for the damaged nails to grow out and be replaced by healthy new growth. In the meantime, you may be instructed to use an antifungal cream or ointment to prevent reinfection.
  • Long-term management: Toenail fungus has a high recurrence rate, so it’s important to take steps to prevent future infections. This includes keeping your feet clean and dry, wearing breathable shoes and moisture-wicking socks, and avoiding walking barefoot in public areas like locker rooms and pools.

With proper treatment and preventive measures, most people are able to successfully eliminate their toenail fungus and enjoy clear, healthy nails again.

Is Laser Treatment Covered by Insurance?

Unfortunately, laser therapy for toenail fungus is considered a cosmetic procedure and is not typically covered by insurance.

The cost can vary depending on the provider and the number of treatments needed, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1500 out of pocket.


Some dermatologists offer payment plans or financing options to make the treatment more affordable.

You may also be able to use a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure with pre-tax dollars.

While the upfront cost of laser therapy may seem steep, it’s important to weigh it against the long-term benefits of clear, healthy nails.

Many people find that the improved self-confidence and quality of life are well worth the investment.


FAQs About Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus:

  • How long does each laser treatment session take?

Most sessions take about 30 minutes from start to finish. The actual laser application only lasts a few minutes per nail.

  • Is the procedure painful?

Most people tolerate the treatment quite well, experiencing only a warm or tingling sensation. If you have sensitive feet, your dermatologist can adjust the laser settings to minimize any discomfort.

  • How many sessions will I need?

This depends on the severity of your fungal infection, but most people need an average of 3-4 sessions spaced about a month apart. Your dermatologist will discuss a customized treatment plan during your initial consultation.

  • Can I paint my nails after laser therapy?

It’s best to avoid nail polish and artificial nails for at least a few weeks after treatment. This allows your dermatologist to monitor your nails’ response to the laser and makes it easier to spot any signs of reinfection.

  • Will my insurance cover the cost of treatment?

Most insurance plans consider laser therapy for toenail fungus to be a cosmetic procedure and do not cover the cost. However, you may be able to use an FSA or HSA account to pay for it with pre-tax dollars.

  • How long until I see results?

Clear, healthy nail growth can take several months after successful laser treatment. This is because the damaged nail needs to fully grow out and be replaced, which happens slowly. Most people start seeing visible improvement within 3-6 months.

  • Is there anything I can do to speed up healing?

Keeping your feet clean and dry is the best way to promote healthy nail growth after laser therapy. You should also avoid tight, restrictive shoes and opt for breathable footwear whenever possible. Your dermatologist may recommend a topical antifungal cream or powder to use in conjunction with laser treatment.

  • Can laser therapy be used on fingernails too?

Yes, the procedure is essentially the same for treating fingernail fungus. However, fingernail infections are less common than toenail infections and may respond better to topical or oral antifungal medications.

  • Are there any activity restrictions after treatment?

No, you can resume your normal daily activities immediately after laser therapy. You may want to avoid strenuous exercise or excessive sweating for the first 24 hours to allow your nails to cool down fully.

  • What happens if the fungus comes back?

Recurrent infections can be treated with additional laser sessions or other antifungal therapies as needed. The best defense is a good offense in the form of preventive foot hygiene and prompt treatment of any new symptoms.


If you’re tired of hiding your feet because of unsightly toenail fungus, laser treatment may be the solution you’ve been looking for.


With its high success rates, minimal side effects, and quick in-office procedure, it’s no wonder this therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years.

While laser treatment isn’t cheap and isn’t covered by insurance, many people find that the long-term benefits of clear, healthy nails are worth the out-of-pocket expense.

Suppose you think you may be a candidate for laser therapy. In that case, the first step is to schedule a consultation with a qualified dermatologist who can evaluate your case and recommend the best course of action.

With a little patience and persistence, you can say goodbye to toenail fungus and hello to feet you’re proud to show off.


So don’t let embarrassment or frustration hold you back any longer – take control of your nail health today and discover the difference laser therapy can make!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *