As an alternative to using topical solutions and oral medications, laser treatment for toenail fungus is becoming an increasingly popular option for some. The medical procedure isn’t cheap, often ranging from $500 to $1,500 per round and not covered by insurance.
The technologically-advanced approach, however, can be an effective method for managing toenail problems while avoiding the serious side effects that come with many oral medications. Here’s a deeper look into what you can expect from such a treatment.
What influences the cost of the laser treatment?
The number of infected toenails
There’s a big difference between estimates of $500 and $1,500, but there are many factors that determine the bottom line when it comes to how much you’ll need to shell out if you end up undergoing a laser treatment for getting rid of the fungus on your toenails. For example, if multiple toenails are infected, you can expect the procedure to cost more than if only one toenail needs to be treated. If you have multiple toenails on both feet that require care, the price will continue to go up.
The thickness of the nail
The starting condition of the toenail will also affect the time you need with the medical staff and how involved the procedure will have to be, which can influence the final cost. If you have a thick nail, for example, the thickness of the nail will have to be reduced before the toe can be effectively treated. In the laser procedure, the laser energy has to pass through the nail in order to reach the nail bed where the fungal matter actually rests. Hence, a thick nail can act as a barrier in preventing the laser treatment to have full efficacy. If specialized equipment is used to reduce a thick nail before the actual lasering happens, you can expect more time in the office and a higher bill accordingly.
The condition of the fungus
In some cases, the nail plate itself will have to be removed before treating a severely-infected toe with the laser technology. If you need a separate or longer appointment accordingly, the overall cost can be impacted by the specialized circumstances.
If follow-up care is needed
Often a consultation is free as well as one follow-up visit with your doctor after the laser treatment is finished. If the follow-up appointment reveals that further treatment or professional supervision is needed, you might be offered reduced rates for the aftercare, but you should still be mentally prepared to write an additional check.
How can I pay for the treatment?
Cash, credit & health savings accounts
Many medical offices accept cash, credit cards and money orders for the procedure. If you a Health Savings Account or Medical IRA, you should be able to cover the cost of the laser treatment that way. If you would need an installment plan to cover the full cost, some offices may be able to work with your needs and extend an in-house credit plan to help you receive the treatment now and continue to pay bills for the procedure in the months ahead.
Not through insurance
Because the procedure is considered to be aesthetic, insurance plans presently do not cover laser treatments for toenail fungus. You can continue to check with your insurance company and ask to be notified if anything changes, but you should presently only undergo the procedure if you are willing to budget in the cost as your own expense. Signing up for the treatment, receiving the actual service and then realizing the procedure isn’t covered by insurance could be devastating. Go into the doctor’s office with your eyes wide open.
What other factors should I be aware of?
Does the laser treatment for toenail fungus hurt?
Most patients feel either no pain at all or just a slight sensation of warmth. Anesthesia is generally not administered for this type of medical procedure.
If you have sensitive skin and are concerned about pain, you can talk with your doctor beforehand about decreasing the laser power during the treatment, which should reduce the possibility of any pain sensations.
Once the procedure is finished, you shouldn’t experience any post-treatment pain either. You should be able to dive back into all of your normal activities right away. You can even paint your toenails right after the treatment!
How quickly can I expect to see the results?
Like with oral medications, it takes time for the benefits of laser treatments to be seen. When you go into the doctor’s office for treatment, no change will be visible that day. The nail has to grow out so it can take a few months before a more normal-looking nail to appear and around nine to twelve months for complete regrowth.
Does the treatment work on everyone?
No, the treatment isn’t 100% effective and an initial consultation is required to see if you even are a good candidate for the procedure. If you receive approval during the consultation and proceed with receiving the treatment, the likelihood of experiencing significant nail plate clearance and improved circumstances after at least three months is extremely high. Laser treatment isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in the procedure, go ahead and schedule a no-pressure consultation to discuss options, prices and your concerns.
Is the treatment safe?
The Food and Drug Administration has cleared certain laser procedures as being safe for treating the nail including PinPointe technology.
Some laser systems that have been approved by a medically-governing body for the treatment of another condition and a different body part are being used “off label,” so to speak; being used to treat toenail fungus even though the laser system has not been cleared safe yet for that particular purpose.
Using a laser technology on your toes that has only been declared safe for another body part can have unexpected and negative consequences. Before even getting a consultation, do your research online about the kind of doctors’ offices that are in your area and what procedures are available. Know your facts about what are toenail-approved laser treatments and proceed accordingly.
If you want to learn if a particular laser has been cleared specifically for treating toenail fungus, you can contact the FDA’s Consumer Staff for clarifications about any particular laser device.