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Zapping Away Foot Infections

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ou can get it from the floor, the carpet, your house, your sneakers … even a bad pedicure. About 10 percent of American adults -- or 23 million people -- battle toenail fungus. Right now people spend more than $1.2 billion a year on pills and creams, but doctors say they're successful only half the time. Doctors are now testing a new treatment that aims to zap the infection away.
It's one of the secrets of their happy 34-year marriage -- Delia and Manuel Cisneros love to dance! But for many years, they were both afraid to show off their foot work.
"I wore closed shoes because they looked kind of ugly," Delia told Ivanhoe. "I would paint my nails so it wouldn't show the problem, but the problem never really went away."
"I would do this, do that, all sorts of remedies, but nothing really ever worked," Manuel said.
Podiatrist Gabriel Maislos, D.P.M., of Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital in Houston, Texas, says chronic toenail fungal infections have been tough to treat.
"Historically, we had topicals that were 8 percent effective," Dr. Maislos told Ivanhoe. "Then you had the pill … but as you know, it can have an adverse affect on your liver, and it's only 70 percent effective. Now we have the laser, which is 87 percent effective."

The doctor follows a grid-like pattern, passing an infrared laser over the toenail to kill the pathogens causing the infection … leaving the nail and surrounding tissue intact.
"We're able to kill the fungus at the source," Dr. Maislos added.
In a clinical trial testing one brand of laser, the infection was eliminated in 50 percent of toenails tested after four treatments. Six months later, 76 percent of patients had clear nail growth.
"I kid you not, in about a week, week and a half, I saw the difference," Manuel said.
The Cisneros saw results quickly, but doctors say it usually takes about four months to see a difference as the nails grow out. The treatment costs about $1,000. Delia says it was worth it.
"I'm just gonna go shop, shop, shop, for shoes," she said.
A couple hoping to kick their toe fungus problem for good.
The laser is not FDA approved for toenails, but the device was cleared for use in dentistry, so some doctors are using it off-label. Another brand of laser is still in clinical trials. Nail fungus can lead to serious infections throughout the body among people with diabetes and immune disorders.