Oral and Topical Anti-Fungal Medications – Effective or Not?

Nail Fungus Oral Medication

If you suffer from nail fungus, you probably already know it can be difficult to treat, and that repeat infections are frustratingly common. Not treating an infection, even if mild, can cause it to spread to other nails as well.

Serious fungal nail infections need to be treated. Two common options are antifungal tablets (oral medication) and topical (non-oral) remedies, such as nail paints. These treatments can cure fungal nail infections, but may take 6-12 months to see results.

Let’s Look At Oral Medications
To treat your nail fungus, a doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication in tablet form. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown the most effective treatments to be terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox).

Your doctor is likely to advise oral medication if you are experiencing pain or discomfort from your fungal nail infection. Taking antifungal medication in the form of tablets or pills means that the medicine reaches your nail via your bloodstream.

Antifungal medications are usually more successful than topical treatments, but they can cause side effects ranging from headaches, skin rashes, and nausea to liver damage. Doctors will likely not recommend these medications for people with congestive heart failure or liver disease, or for those taking certain medications.

Oral medications help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected portion of your nail. You typically take the medication for at least 3 months, but won’t see full results until the nail grows back completely.

It will take at least 6 months to eradicate a fungal infection this way. Recurrent infections are possible, especially if you stop the medication early, or continue to expose your nails to warm, wet conditions.

However, an advantage of oral medication is that it will usually clear any related fungal skin infections, such as athlete’s foot, at the same time.

Topical Treatment
If you have a mild to moderate case of nail fungus, or prefer not to take medication, your doctor or pharmacist can suggest a topical treatment, such as an antifungal lacquer (polish) or ointment.

Antifungal nail polish is painted on the infected nails and surrounding skin once a day. After one week, you take off the layers with alcohol and begin fresh applications.

During treatment, you should begin to see a new, healthy nail grow from the base of the nail bed – a sign the treatment is working. The old infected nail can be clipped away over 6 months.

Daily use of an antifungal polish for about one year has been shown to help clear some nail fungal infections, but because it has to work its way through to the infection, it can be difficult to reach and destroy all of the fungus.

Your doctor can also file the surface of your nail (called debridement) to lessen the amount of infected nail to treat, and possibly make the topical medication more effective.

Over-the-counter antifungal nail creams and ointments, often containing urea, are available at your local drugstore or pharmacy, but in truth, they aren’t very effective. Keep in mind that if you have athlete’s foot as well as nail fungus, you should treat the athlete’s foot separately, and keep your feet clean and dry as much as possible.

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