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Topical Antifungal Medicine for Fungal Nail Infections

Examples

Nonprescription topical

Generic Name Brand Name
clotrimazole Lotrimin
miconazole Micatin

Prescription topical

Generic Name Brand Name
ciclopirox Loprox, Penlac
econazole
ketoconazole Nizoral
oxiconazole Oxistat

Ciclopirox comes as a cream or lotion (Loprox) or lacquer (Penlac). The cream or lotion is applied to the skin or nail twice a day for 2 weeks. The lacquer (nail polish) is applied to the nail once a day for up to 6 months.

The other medicines are available as creams, lotions, solutions, or sprays and are applied directly to the nail and surrounding skin once or twice a day for 3 to 12 months.

How It Works

Topical antifungal medicines prevent the growth of or kill fungi.

Why It Is Used

Topical antifungal medicines are used to treat fungal nail infections. Often, the medicine that is used depends on the type of infection you have.

  • Econazole, ketoconazole, and oxiconazole are used to treat fungal nail infections caused by dermatophytes and yeasts, such as Candida.
  • Clotrimazole is used to treat dermatophytes and molds.
  • Ciclopirox is used to treat fungal infection on the nail surface (white superficial onychomycosis).

Topical medicines are also used to prevent reinfection, to prevent athlete's foot from causing a fungal nail infection, and after removal of a nail.

How Well It Works

Topical medicines may be used to treat fungal nail infections. But they do not work as well as oral medicines in curing fungal nail infections.

Using a topical antifungal around the toes after an infection is cured may prevent reinfection.1

These medicines may be used when there are concerns about the risks of oral antifungal medicine.

Side Effects

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.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Skin rash, blistering, itching, or other skin irritation you did not have before using this medicine.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Topical antifungals rarely cause side effects. If you have a problem, stop using the medicine and talk to your doctor.

Taking medicine

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

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

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.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Citations

  1. Habif TP (2010). Fungal nail infections section of Nail diseases. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 956–961. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised May 14, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 14, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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