Antifungal medicines that are used on the
skin (topical) are usually the first choice for treating
athlete's foot (tinea pedis). They are available in
prescription or nonprescription forms. Nonprescription medicines are usually
For severe cases of athlete's foot, your doctor may
prescribe oral antifungals (pills). But treatment with this medicine is
expensive, requires periodic testing for dangerous
side effects, and does not guarantee a cure.
When you are treating
athlete's foot, it is important that you use the full course of the medicine. Using it as directed,
even after the symptoms go away, increases the likelihood that you will
kill the fungi and that the infection will not return.
Nonprescription antifungals are usually tried first.
These include clotrimazole
(Lotrimin), miconazole (Micatin), terbinafine (Lamisil), and tolnaftate (Tinactin).
may be tried if nonprescription medicines do not help or if you have a severe
infection. Some of these medicines are
topical antifungals, which are put directly on the
skin. Examples include butenafine (Mentax), clotrimazole, and naftifine (Naftin). Prescription antifungals can also
be taken as a pill, which are called
oral antifungals. Examples of oral antifungals include fluconazole (Diflucan),
itraconazole (Sporanox), and terbinafine (Lamisil).
What to think about
You may choose not to treat
athlete's foot if your symptoms don't bother you and you have no health
problems that increase your risk of severe foot infection, such as
diabetes. But an untreated athlete's foot infection
causing skin blisters or cracks can lead to severe bacterial infection. Also,
if you don't treat athlete's foot, you can spread it to other people.
If your symptoms do not improve after 2 weeks of treatment or have not
gone away after 4 weeks of treatment, call your doctor.
Some topical antifungal medicines work faster (1
to 2 weeks) than other topical medicines (4 to 8 weeks). All of the
faster-acting medicines have similar cure rates.1 The
fast-acting medicines may cost more than the slower-acting ones, but you use
less of these medicines to fully treat a fungal infection. Oral antifungal
medicines are typically taken for 2 to 8 weeks.