Oral Antifungal Medicine for Fungal Nail Infections
Other oral antifungals
All of these medicines are by
prescription only. Allylamines and azoles are classes of drugs. Their
effectiveness and side effects may vary.
Terbinafine tablets are
taken once a day for 6 weeks for fungal fingernail infections, and for 12 weeks
or longer for fungal toenail infections. Terbinafine tablets can be used
according to a pulse dosing schedule. Pulse dosing refers to taking medicine
daily for 1 week a month for 2, 3, or 4 months. Some people find it easier to
stay with this medicine schedule, and the treatment is likely to be
Oral azoles (tablets or capsules) are taken daily for 3
to 18 months, depending on the medicine. Oral azoles can be used according to a
weekly pulse dosing schedule. Pulse dosing refers to taking medicine daily for
1 week a month for 2, 3, or 4 months. Some people find it easier to stay with
this medicine schedule, and the treatment is likely to be cheaper.
Griseofulvin is taken twice a day until nails are clear of infection. For
infections in the fingernails, griseofulvin may be taken for 6 to 8 months. For
infections in toenails, griseofulvin may be taken for 12 to 18 months to cure
an infection and to prevent reinfection.
How It Works
Allylamines and azoles kill
fungi. Griseofulvin prevents the growth of fungi.
Killing fungi does not guarantee a normal-looking nail.
Terbinafine is a medicine for fungal nail infections
caused by dermatophytes, including
distal subungual onychomycosis and white superficial onychomycosis. Most fungal nail infections are caused by this type of
fungus. Terbinafine may also be effective against some molds
Itraconazole is a medicine for infections caused by
molds and yeast (Candida). It
can also be used for dermatophytes.
Fluconazole is a medicine for Candida infections and can also be used against
dermatophytes. It may be used if you are taking a lot
of other medicines.
Griseofulvin is more effective against fingernail infections than
toenail infections and is rarely used for toenail infections. It is only
effective against infections caused by dermatophytes.
How Well It Works
Oral antifungals may cure fungal
nail infections. Most research has been on using these medicines for toenail
Oral antifungals to treat fungal nail infections include terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox). Studies comparing these two medicines found that terbinafine cured the infection in 55% of people and itraconazole cured the infection in 26% of people after 16 weeks of treatment.1
Fluconazole (Diflucan)and griseofulvin (Grifulvin V) are used less often. Fluconazole seems to help, but not as much as terbinafine or itraconazole.1 And griseofulvin may work, but there is not enough evidence from studies to say just how well it works.2
Oral antifungal medicines often kill fungi but do not
immediately improve the appearance of the nail.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Shortness of breath and chest pain.
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Symptoms of liver problems, such as:
Nausea that doesn't go away, vomiting, or belly pain.
Loss of appetite.
Yellowing of skin.
Urine that is dark.
Stools that are pale.
Symptoms of heart problems, such as:
Shortness of breath at rest, with mild exertion, or when lying
Severe swelling of feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen.
Coughing up white or pink mucus.
Faster-than-usual heart rate.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
Itching or skin rashes.
Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in
What To Think About
During oral antifungal treatment, your doctor may require
blood tests to check your kidney and liver function.
and azoles may cause liver damage or failure, requiring a liver transplant.
A small number of deaths after liver failure has been linked to these medicines.
Itraconazole may cause
heart failure. Your doctor will talk with you about what signs to watch for when taking this medicine.
Commonly prescribed medicines can increase or
decrease terbinafine or azole levels in your body. Also, other medicines
can build up in the your blood when taken with terbinafine or an azole. Before
you take oral antifungal medicines, let your doctor know what other medicines
you are taking.
Oral azoles are best
absorbed into the body when taken with cola, orange juice, or food. Some
medicines may reduce your body's absorption of azole medicine. These
include cimetidine (Tagamet), stomach acid neutralizers, and rifampin
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.