Toenail Fungus OTC Treatments

Toenail Fungus Medication – Oral Treatment Options & Side Effects

Treating toenail fungus fast and effectively is important. That’s why many people turn to prescription drugs. These antifungal medications each have specific advantages and disadvantages, but they’re all proven to cure a fungal infection.

In some cases, topical over-the-counter agents or home remedies don’t work as quickly as some people would like. How long do toenail fungus antifungal medications take to work? The answer can be different for everyone, depending on the severity of the infection. However, we will provide an indication of how long it takes for each prescription to work.

You’ll see that many of these toenail fungus prescription drugs are tablets. Oral meds help to fight an infection from the inside out, which is often what makes them stronger than many of the topical treatments.

If you have a severe infection, or you know you need to get treatment quickly, take a look at this list of prescription medicines. Each one may work slightly differently, but they’re all strong enough to wipe out even the most stubborn infection.

Before getting a med from a doctor, we recommend getting the facts about over-the-counter toenail fungus medications. They’re often safer and provide superior value for money. If you’ve not had any success with these methods in the past, you should explore prescription medications.

Prescription Toenail Fungus Medication List

The medications are all related to the successful treatment of onychomycosis. This article will discuss how they work, the best features and side effects. A fungal infection won’t go away on its own. Introducing antifungal prescription meds is a great way to treat your entire body, ridding it of infection and reducing the risk of spreading and fungal growth.

Each individual medication may have its own specific list of side effects. However, before using any of them, talk with your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or if you have diabetes. Additionally, make sure your antifungal prescription won’t interact negatively with any other medications you may currently be taking.

The more you know about the medications available, the easier it will be for you to make an informed decision. Let’s look at each option more closely:


This can either be an oral medication or a nail lacquer prescribed by your doctor. It is an antifungal agent that works by attacking sensitive fungi and making the fungus causing infection even weaker. It does this by developing holes in the cell membrane of the infection. This compromises the structure of the cells and weakens them, so they become too weak to thrive, and the fungus eventually dies out.

One of the most popular brand names for terbinafine is Lamisil. Lamisil can also be found as an over the counter antifungal cream to be applied topically. Terbinafine can also be found under the brand name Terbinex. Keep in mind that over-the-counter products may not contain the same potency as prescription medications.


  • Tablet only needs to be taken once a day
  • Only takes up to 12 weeks for an infection to be healed
  • Destroys the structure of a growing fungus
  • Reduces the spread of infection

Side effects:

The benefits of using terbinafine tend to outweigh the side effects so much that it remains one of the most popular antifungal drugs. However, there are precautions to keep in mind. Don’t use terbinafine if you are allergic to any of the ingredients, or you have liver problems of any kind. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild skin rash
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Unusual taste in the mouth

Lamisil Cream for toenail fungus


This is a topical antifungal agent, often described as a nail lacquer. It works by slowing the growth of invasive fungus and killing sensitive fungus to stop infection. It can be applied directly to the toenail, and the surrounding skin to prevent spreading.

Ciclopirox is often found under the brand names Penlac (Penlac Nail Lacquer), Pedipirox-4, CNL8 Nail, and/or Ciclodan. They are all forms of topical creams or ointments that can be applied directly to the infection each day.


  • No oral medication – can be applied topically every day
  • Takes several months to fully clear fungal infection
  • Kills fungus and prevents fungal growth

Side effects:

Because ciclopirox is a topical agent, side effects are rarer than those of an oral solution. Most of the most common side effects are extremely mild. They include:

  • Discoloration of the nails
  • Mild itching or burning of surrounding skin

In rare cases, more serious side effects, such as burning or severe irritation may occur. Stop use immediately if you experience these results.


This is part of the ‘azole’ class of antifungal medications, one of the most popular categories of antifungal solutions. It helps to prevent fungal infections, and kill existing fungi. This process includes disrupting the formation of the cell membrane of fungi. When the cells aren’t able to properly form, the fungus weakens and dies out. Fluconazole is an oral medication that works best when taken at the same time each day, throughout the full course of a fungal infection.


  • Prohibits the growth of fungus by disrupting cell membrane
  • Easy-to-take oral tablet
  • Able to work on multiple fungi-related conditions
  • Takes 6+ months to fully treat toenail fungus

Side effects:

Major side effects associated with fluconazole are rare. However, as with any oral medication, they do happen and it’s important to be aware of them, so you can seek out medical help as needed. Some of the potential side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Tightness in the chest


As another azole antifungal, ketoconazole interferes with the formation of the cell membrane. When cells aren’t able to grow properly, the fungus can’t thrive and eventually will die out. This also helps to reduce the risk of the fungus spreading to other areas. It is typically found as a cream. It can be prescribed on its own or found in several over the counter brands.

Ketoconazole is designed for daily use by applying the cream directly to the infected area. Keep in mind that it can still take several months for the fungal infection to completely clear up, as this treatment is designed to be used in a full cycle. Even if the fungus appears to be gone, it’s important to keep using the treatment for as long as it’s prescribed, to ensure the fungus doesn’t come back immediately.


  • Easy-to-apply cream
  • Only needs to be applied once daily
  • Minimal side effects

Side effects:

Do not take ketoconazole if you have liver or kidney problems. There are also several prescription and over the counter drugs that may react negatively with the cream. Contact your health care provider if you are currently on any medications before using ketoconazole on your toenails. Other potential side effects include:

  • Sudden rash or hives
  • Irritation
  • Back, leg, or stomach pains
  • Dizziness
  • Reddening of the skin


Like other azole antifungal medications, itraconazole disrupts the formation of the cell membrane of a fungus. This keeps it from growing and spreading, until eventually, it dies out. This can take several months, especially if your fungal infection has been left untreated for quite some time. It is usually taken as an oral capsule, treating the fungus from within the body. If the infection has had a chance to spread anywhere else, itraconazole will help to get rid of it everywhere, not just on the nails.

Itraconazole can also be found under several brand names, including Sporanox (PulsePak), or Onmel.


  • Kills the fungal infection from the inside out
  • Easy to take oral solution

Side effects:

Do not take itraconazole or a brand name product containing it if you have any issues with the liver. Other potential side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Dry Mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain

prescription toenail fungus tablets that work


Efinaconazole is a topical solution designed to stop the growth of nail fungus by disrupting the production of cell membranes. Unlike many other azole antifungals, you can apply this cream directly to the infected toenail(s). There is no need to take an oral tablet. The cream allows for fast penetration into the nail bed and surrounding area.

Efinaconazole is meant to be used just once a day, usually, for about 48 weeks, or until the infection has completely cleared up. It is also often seen as the brand name Jublia.


  • Topical solution with less potential side effects
  • Easy-to-use every day
  • Easy clean up to prevent contamination or spreading of the fungus

Side effects:

Use of efinaconazole is for toenails only. It shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin, as it may cause irritation. Other potential side effects include:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Stinging
  • Blisters around the infected toenail


This is prescribed as an oral medication designed to cure fungal infections. It also works on conditions like ringworm and ‘jock itch.’ It works by binding itself to the fungus. This stops the infection from spreading and prevents it from creating new cells or moving to other cells. Eventually, when the infection isn’t able to thrive within any of the cells anymore, it dies off.

Griseofulvin can also be found by its brand names, Grifulvin V, and Gris-PEG. Aside from tablet form, it can also be available as a liquid suspension. Your doctor should be able to guide you toward which of the two medication options will be best for your particular situation.


  • Easy to take, once-daily tablet
  • Prevents infection from spreading to healthy cells

Side effects:

Griseofulvin is a powerful antifungal agent. You should first talk to your doctor before using it if you’re currently on any other medications. You should also avoid the consumption of alcohol while taking this drug regularly. The most common side effects include:

  • Rash
  • Tingling of the feet
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Most side effects associated with griseofulvin are mild. If you do experience any of them, they are likely to go away on their own within a few days or weeks. Stop use immediately if they persist or get worse.


This is a topical agent used specifically for treating toenail fungus. It should be applied every day to stop the growth of fungus and to keep it from spreading. When a fungal infection can’t continue to thrive and spread, it will eventually die out. It may take several months to see results, depending on the severity of your infection. It is also known under its brand name, Kerydin.

With tavaborole and any topical antifungal treatment, it’s important to keep cross-contamination in mind. This particular treatment usually comes with a dropper that doesn’t have to directly touch the nail. If a dropper is included, make sure it never touches the actual fungus before putting it back in the bottle. Doing so could contaminate the entire bottle of medication. If you use a cream that needs to be applied by hand, always wash your hands immediately following the application. It’s very easy for a fungus to spread, otherwise.


  • Convenient dropper keeps the bottle from being contaminated
  • Easy to use and apply
  • Only requires one application each day

Side effects:

While regular use of tavaborole may cause some side effects, they are typically not serious or life threatening. The most common negative side effects people experience are:

  • Swelling of the skin around the toenail
  • Itching
  • Redness

The symptoms should go away on their own within days. It’s important to use the solution around the same time each day for best results. If you miss a dosage, don’t try to ‘make up’ for it by doubling up at a different time. Wait until the right time the next day to get back on track.

Oral Toenail Fungus Medication

How Long Do Antifungal Medications Take to Work?

As you can see, even prescription antifungal medications can take weeks or months to work. Your fungal infection didn’t become severe overnight, and most medications won’t work overnight as a result. Toenail fungus is extremely contagious, and we regularly keep our feet in environments that make it easy to grow and spread.

The most important thing you can do with any of the treatments listed above is to make sure you follow through with them until the entire prescription is complete. Because fungus grows so quickly, stopping a prescription short can cause it to return, and you’ll have to start the treatment process over.

What Are the Alternatives to Prescription Medications?

Because toenail fungus is so common, dozens of additional remedies have been developed over time. Many of the prescriptions listed here have over-the-counter versions. They may be a bit weaker, but many people find them effective. If you want to go a more natural route, you might consider a home remedy for toenail fungus, such as tea tree oil.

Some of the most innovative solutions for getting rid of a fungal infection are:

  1. Laser treatment: Laser treatment for nail fungus is becoming increasingly popular. It can be done professionally by a podiatrist. However, there are now several home laser treatment options, including the Ncure Nail Fungus Laser Treatment Device. It only takes a few minutes each day for the device to work, with no messy creams to worry about. Typically, laser devices can work faster than many medications. But, they are also usually more expensive, and some people don’t feel comfortable using such a device on their foot.
  2. Foot soaks: Foot soaking systems, like the Purely Northwest Toenail Fungus System, can make you feel like you’re getting a spa treatment while getting rid of your infection. Purely Northwest has three different steps, including a tea tree oil foot soak. Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal agent that can help to heal the infection while keeping it from spreading.
  3. Nail lacquers: Nail lacquers and antifungal polishes are easy to use and convenient. They can be used similarly to traditional polishes. You simply brush them on the infected nail(s), and let the medication seep into the nail bed. Many lacquers now come in colors, so no one will know the difference between a standard polish. It’s a great way to hide any unsightly symptoms of fungus, while treating it at the same time.

Is Prescription Medication the Best Option for Toenail Fungus?

Prescription medications are often some of the strongest available for treating a fungal infection. There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing them as your main form of treatment. One of the advantages is using a clinically tested product that has seen positive results. However, getting a prescription requires seeking the help of a podiatrist. Many people choose to avoid this because of the time it takes, and the potential cost.

Many prescription medications also come with potentially harmful side effects. More often than not, though, the side effects are rare and the benefits outweigh them.

There are many different treatment options for toenail fungus. The best thing you can do is catch the infection as early as possible. The less severe it is allowed to become, the easier it will probably be to treat. We hope this article has been helpful in guiding you to make a decision about prescription medications for toenail fungus. If you haven’t ever used an OTC treatment, we strongly recommend that you try a good one first, such as the Purely Northwest System.