Several oral medications are used to treat nail infections. The ones that are most effective are terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox). They are used against infections caused by two dermatophyte fungi: Trichophyton rubrum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes.
How the Medication Works
Both Lamisil and Sporanox appear to work by inhibiting a protein that helps fungi grow and reproduce.
These medications are usually taken daily for 6 weeks to treat a fingernail fungus and for 12 weeks to treat a toenail fungus. Sometimes, however, they’re prescribed on a schedule that allows for periods of “drug-free” days. Spacing the medications in this manner is believed to minimize the risk of side effects, which can be serious.
Potential Side Effects
Before you begin taking one of these oral anti-fungal medications, your doctor will give you a liver function blood test to make sure your liver is healthy. A rare side effect of the drugs is liver damage, so neither Lamisil nor Sporanox are given to anyone whose liver is already compromised.
People with other underlying health conditions, such as congestive heart failure, should also avoid these medications.
The most common side effects of Lamisil and Sporanox are an upset stomach, nausea, and indigestion. Some people also develop headaches and skin rashes. You should call your doctor immediately if you develop any of these symptoms.
The effects of oral anti-fungal medications generally don’t show up until after you’ve finished taking them. It takes time for a significant amount of healthy nail to grow in and for the disfigured nail to grow out (and be carefully clipped away). These drugs remain in your nails for up to three months, so they’ll continue to help fight the fungus after you’ve stopped taking them.
Lamisil and Sporanox have a 30 to 59 percent cure rate. Studies have also shown that in 35 percent of cases, the infection returns within two years. It’s essential that you continue to practice good nail hygiene after you’ve completed the treatment.