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Lamisil for toenail fungus

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Lamisil (containing the active ingredient terbinafine) is an oral 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 also available as a cream, gel, or spray version over-the-counter for treating other types of fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm. Terbinafine tablets are used to treat more ingrained fungal infections and are only available on prescription.

Doctor’s advice

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 by 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 and spray is available over the counter and may be tried for mild fungal nail infections on the fingers or toes in adults aged 12 years and over. This means only when one or two nails are infected, and the infection only covers small areas of the infected nails.

Although Lamisil can be purchased to try and treat early fungal nail infections, 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 may be needed for as long 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 using blood tests, before considering you for antifungal 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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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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