Health Team

Treating foot fungus can be quick and painless

Posted December 13, 2010 5:50 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2010 6:27 p.m. EST

WRAL Health Team

For many people, toe nail fungus is embarrassing, but for Susan Herbst, it hurts.

"Especially if I wear a shoe with pressure, with a sock or a stocking would catch on it and it becomes uncomfortable," Herbst said.

Herbst is undergoing pinpoint foot laser treatment. The laser uses heat to kill her toe nail fungus. It's quick and pain free. 

Nail fungus is an infection that thrives under a combination of darkness, heat and moisture. It causes nails to break and become thick and discolored.

Topical creams don't have a high success rate and some oral medications come with serious health risks, including liver damage. Studies show the laser treatment is up to 85 percent effective.

"You'll see improvement; it's just a question of how much it's improved and what the patient is looking for," said Dr. John Cozzarelli, a podiatrist.

The average cost for laser treatment is around $1,000 plus follow-up treatments. Insurance doesn't cover any of it. Herbst says it's worth it.

"I hope that I can wear open-toed shoes and have nice-looking feet," she said.

But results aren't instant. Patients don't see any improvement from laser treatment until months later when the nail grows out.