Antifungal topical medicine (creams, lotions, gels,
and lacquers) are applied to the infected nail and surrounding areas of the
skin. But they may not be as effective as oral medicines. They may be used for
mild-to-moderate infections and to help prevent an infection from returning or
athlete's foot from spreading to the nails. Topical
medicines include terbinafine (Lamisil) and ciclopirox (Penlac).
Things to think about when choosing a fungal nail infection
The type and location of infection. Fingernail and toenail
infections are usually treated with different medicines, and the treatment time
for fingernails is usually shorter. If you have a mild fungal infection or are
concerned about the risks of oral antifungal medicine, consider using a topical
treatment, such as Lamisil or Penlac.
susceptibility to fungal nail infection. If you
develop fungal nail infections often, you may need longer-term
The medicine. Griseofulvin (Grifulvin V) was one of the first
oral antifungal medicines. But it did not provide a long-term cure, had serious
side effects, and required a long treatment time (12 to 18 months). The newer
oral antifungals are more effective, relatively safe for healthy individuals,
and don't take as long to work.
Your risk factors for dangerous side effects from oral antifungal
medicines. If you have a history of blood or liver disease or plan to drink
alcohol during antifungal treatment, oral medicine is not a safe treatment
option for you.
Drug interactions. Commonly prescribed medicines can affect the
levels of antifungal medicine in your body. Also, other medicines can
build up in the bloodstream when taken with antifungal pills. Before you take
oral antifungal medicine, let your doctor know what other medicines you are
The dosing method, if you are taking oral medicine. Depending
on the medicine and the severity of the infection, you may be able to choose
between pulse therapy (taking medicine daily for 1 week a month for 2, 3, or 4
months) or continuous therapy (taking medicine each day).
The cost for the entire course of medicine treatment. Some oral
antifungals cost more than others. Pulse dosing is often less expensive than
For more information on deciding whether to use oral
antifungal medicines, see: