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Lamisil for toenail fungus

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 26.01.2023 | 3 min read

Lamisil (containing the active ingredient terbinafine) is an antifungal medicine used to treat fungal nail infections.

Fungal nail infections tend to affect toenails far more than fingernails. This is because the feet are more often exposed to the kind of environments where this type of infection thrives (warm humid environments). The infection can appear on any part of your nail but usually occurs under the nail plate (the hard part of the nail) on the nail bed. Lamisil is only available as a cream over-the-counter, although terbinafine can be found in other forms as tablets, gels or sprays for treating different fungal conditions such as athlete's foot, ringworm and pityriasis versicolor. Terbinafine tablets are used to treat more ingrained fungal infections and are only available on prescription.

Fungal infections

A fungal nail infection can also infect the skin (or vice versa), so often goes hand-in-hand with athlete’s foot, a fungal skin infection that can appear between the toes and on the soles of the feet. If this is the case, you should get this treated at the same time as your nails.

Your pharmacist can help in the first instance, suggesting an antifungal nail softening cream. Be warned, it’s a long game and aims to remove the infected nail or halt the spread of infection until it grows out. Athlete’s foot, and to a lesser extent fungal nail infection – can spread by sharing towels, bed linen, shoes and nail clippers or scissors. You should wear shoes or sandals in communal areas such as changing rooms, especially if the floors are warm and moist. Keep feet well-aired and avoid shoes that make them feel hot and sweaty. Try to keep your nails as short as possible.

Who is it for?

Lamisil cream is available over-the-counter for mild fungal nail infections on the fingers or toes in adults aged 18 years and over. This means only when one or two nails are infected, and the infection only covers small areas of the infected nails.

Lamisil cream can be purchased to try and treat early fungal nail infections, although your doctor may recommend prescription terbinafine tablets if they think the creams are not likely to work on the fungal infection.

How does it work?

Lamisil works by killing the fungus and improves the bothersome symptoms. For nail infections, treatment can be needed for a long time such as a year. Topical treatments such as Lamisil have the best chance of working if they are started at a very early stage.

Prescription treatments

If the base of the nail bed (known as the lunula) is affected, or if you have more than a few fingers and toes affected, it may be worth speaking to your doctor for prescription-based treatments with a course of antifungal tablets for a few months instead. Your doctor will likely ask you to take nail clippings to confirm the diagnosis along with a check on your liver function blood tests before considering you for anti-fungal tablets. Again, treatment is a long game – at least 3 to 6 months, and you will need to repeat some blood tests to check on your liver along the way.

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