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From the Patient’s Perspective

The Procrastinator’s Notes on Dealing with Injured Nail and Toe Fungus

The Laser Treatment Option

As a 45-year-old male who thinks of himself as a former athlete and an active adult, but in reality is more like quasi-active and knows he should be much more on the active scale, I had an issue with a toe injury that occurred via a combination of running and snowboarding.

Over the years, in my late 30’s and 40’s, toenails have fallen off due to attempts at long distance running (half marathons), or other various activity that caused damage.  The most recent issue had to do with tight snowboarding boots, which was a little more than 2 years ago. The nail fell off and grew back with what was an apparent bruise under the nail.  The nail also grew back, but seemed thick and not attached to the actual toe. It had been far too long and I knew something needed to be done.

As a result, I contacted Gulf South Foot and Ankle and the doctor provided an analysis of the toe and confirmed that the nail was not attached to the toe and there was evidence that there was likely fungus underneath the nail bed.  In order to rectify the issue, the doctors recommended the removal of most of the nail and treatment to kill any fungus with a laser and a topical solution.

As part of the procedure the doctor cut the nail back to the bed to remove the unattached nail and provide a more effective surface for the laser.  The nail was also sanded down to thin it and allow the laser to pass through for better effective results.

Moving forward in this article, I will provide an analysis of the treatment, procedure, effects, as well as feelings during the process.  I’ll start with the cutting of the nail, which was, I’m happy to report – completely pain free. The only thing that I experienced during the process was a bit of pressure during and a touch of sensitivity from the skin under the nail that had not seen the light of day in years.  Since the nail bed was not attached to the majority of the nail, there was relatively no feeling at all and the Dr. was extremely careful to not cause any pain to my toe during the process.

After the nail was cut back, it was then sanded with a rotary tool to thin it out and allow the laser to more easily provide treatment.  Again, no pain involved, just a bit of pressure and a slight vibration on the toe. The Dr. was incredibly precise and gentle with the tool.  Nothing to fear here.

The next step in the process was the laser.  To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about a concentrated light being used on a sensitive area such as my toe, but the process was completely pain free.  The laser was moved roughly every 2 seconds in a pattern on each toenail. Each toe was lasered and each nail received three passes of the laser. Even though 9 of the toes did not visibly show any signs of fungus, or damage, the laser was done to prevent unseen issues from arising, as fungus can spread.  As to any feeling of pain, there was none. Frankly, there was virtually no feeling at all that I could detect. By the time the laser moved position, there was nothing at all that was felt – perhaps a touch of heat, but I could barely notice. The technician that used the laser was terrific and really knew what she was doing.

All in all, the process was completely pain free. The only uncomfortable issue was the thought of not knowing what was going to happen, or if I would feel anything.  The total process was about 10-15 minutes of time and should ultimately fix a problem that I’ve been dealing with for several years, which is a complete relief. Honestly, I’ve put this issue off for no reason and have witnessed it get worse and worse each year.  Over the course of the next month, I will be treating the nails with the ointment that was prescribed as part of the process. Every couple days, I will file the nail bed down to provide the medicine the best opportunity to penetrate and work.

After my next appointment, I will give an update of the progress and changes along the way. As well as photo-document the changes from start to finish.

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