A light in battling toenail fungus

July 10, 2009 9:02:03 PM PDT
Summer is the time to sport flip slops and sandals. But for some, exposing one's feet can be an embarrassment. Kim Kistler seldom wears open-toed shoes. For years, she's been trying to hide her toenail infections. "It makes you feel dirty, even though you know you're not," she says.

Kistler and her doctor tried pills, topical treatments and even removing the nails. Nothing worked "As a last resort, he temporarily removed the nails," Kistler said, "and let the nails grow back fully, and it's still there."

But now, Dr Eric Ricefield is trying his newest weapon against the stubborn fungus. It's called the Pinpointe Laser.

The pencil-point laser beam goes through the nail to kill the fungus underneath. "We have to touch every section of the nail," Dr. Ricefield says, "and the fold around the nail twice... In a grid pattern."

Even though only a few toes are infected, they're all treated, because the fungus may be lurking. The treatment takes about 20 minutes, and only needs to be done once. But, it may take up to a year to see the full results.

"As the new nail grows in, they'll see clearing in the back of the nail," according to Dr. Ricefield. "Over time, that clearing will extend forward." The cost is another drawback: It's about $1,200. But patients like Peter Berthold, who has been battling the problem for 25 years, say it's worth it: "I didn't realize

The laser is cleared by the FDA to use for other skin infections but is being used off-label to treat nail infections.

Clinical trials have shown no adverse effects and it's shown to be effective in nearly 90% of cases.

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