by Leah Hardy
Last updated at 10:01 PM on 17th December 2011
Nailed it: Leah Hardy is dreaming of a flip-flop summer after laser treatment
I’m not always immaculately groomed, though I do always sport glossily painted toenails. But it’s not as glamorous as it sounds: the polish disguises the ugly yellow discoloration on my big toenails, caused by a fungal infection I’ve had for years.
One in ten of us suffers the condition at some point, with a million people in the UK having infected nails at any one time. until recently, treatment has been time-consuming, taking up to a year, and is either ineffective or potentially dangerous. But now, a revolutionary laser therapy claims to restore ugly nails to pink and pearly health in one or two 20-minute sessions.
A key problem is that infections – easy to catch – are difficult to cure. The condition, called onychomycosis, is mostly caused by a tiny organism, trichophyton rubrum, similar to the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. Junaid Ahmed, senior podiatrist at London’s Feet For Life, which has just taken delivery of one of the new lasers, says: ‘Fungal spores thrive in warm, moist conditions, such as at swimming pools or in our shoes.
‘Injury is a common trigger. you might stub your foot and spores invade the area. other triggers include untreated athlete’s foot and ingrowing nails.’
Ahmed says 40 per cent of patients have fungal nail infections and many have never found a treatment that works. ‘Lacquers and lotions are useless,’ he says. ‘there are oral anti-fungal drugs, but these have to be taken for up to a year and can have serious side effects, such as stomach pains and nausea. The medication can also, in rare cases, cause jaundice, heart disease or liver failure.’
So lasers are hailed as a real breakthrough. Safe, and side-effect-free, they work by applying intense heat to vapourise the fungus. with a treatment time of less than half an hour, they seem the perfect solution. And for a cost of about