Musings on optics, physics, astronomy, technology and life

Toenail fungus is gross, and nobody likes to contemplate it. Can medical lasers get rid of the disgusting stuff and make one’s toes pretty and painless again?

Maybe, maybe not. Today’s Washington Post describes the podiatric problem and the possible ways of de-FEET-ing it, from oral medication to two recently approved lasers, the PinPointe and the GenesisPlus. According to the FDA’s approval paperwork, the PinPoint is a pulsed solid-state laser operating at the standard wavelength of 1064 nm.

Apparently, some patients find relief through the laser treatment, whereas others do not. One thing I didn’t know beforehand: the PinPointe’s manufacturer says that some 100 different organisms — including yeast, mold and bacteria, as well as fungi — work together to gunk up our toenails. Perhaps the patients for whom the laser worked had different kinds of toenail beasties from the patients who experienced unsuccessful treatment. Now there’s a research project waiting to be done!

The laser treatment also isn’t usually covered by insurance. Still, at least lasers don’t have the potential side effects of the oral fungicidal medication: “diarrhea, headache, rashes and changes in taste,” and severe liver damage in some cases, according to the Post article.

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