At our Austin Podiatry Center, we have three lasers in our office. Two are reasonably attractive pieces of equipment. The third, an ugly duckling laser, has a design that only an engineer could love. The machine has a gunmetal gray case with red LED indicator lights. Rather than a slick, thin fiber optic cable to carry the laser beam, it has a large laser head – heavy, awkward, and ugly! Ahhh! But, as any engineer will tell you, it’s what’s inside that counts!
When I served on a local hospital laser committee I learned a few things about buying lasers. What makes the ugly duckling laser so special is the fact that it works remarkably better than the” pretty” lasers for certain things – most notably toenail fungus. The problem with the pretty diode lasers is that in order to be effective they must generate a certain level of heat which is quite uncomfortable. To kill fungus takes a relatively high power level to penetrate the nail and kill the fungus. In the diode laser with a long pulse this makes the nail quite hot and this is painful. The ugly laser on the other hand works with extremely fast pulses. The pulses are in fact about eight billionths of a second long. The power is extremely high but since it is on for so short of a time you cannot even feel it most of the time. Not only does this particular type of power works exceptionally well killing fungus but it also causes a cavitation effect which also helps kill the fungus.
There is nothing wrong with the diode lasers; I use them for warts and ingrown toenails, but when it comes to fungus toenails, that ugly laser is a thing of beauty!