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Terbinafine for nail fungus

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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Terbinafine is an antifungal medicine used to treat skin infections caused by a fungus or yeast, including athlete's foot, fungal nail infections, ringworm, and pityriasis versicolor.

Terbinafine is available as a cream or spray for treating athlete's foot, ringworm, and pityriasis versicolor. You can buy these from a pharmacy or supermarket. It also comes as tablets for treating fungal nail infections and other fungal infections, however, this is only available on prescription.

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

Terbinafine tablets can be prescribed for adults. Your doctor may recommend tablets if they think creams or sprays are not likely to work on the fungal infection.

How does it work?

Terbinafine works by killing the fungus which treats the infection and symptoms. For nail infections, treatment usually lasts for between 6 weeks and 3 months, although some patients with toenail infections may need to be treated for much longer.

Should anyone not take it?

To make sure terbinafine is safe for you, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you:

  • Have had an allergic reaction to terbinafine or any other medicines in the past
  • Have ever had liver or kidney problems, as the terbinafine might not be the most appropriate treatment for you, or the dose may need to be reduced
  • If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding

Are there any side effects?

The most common side effects of terbinafine tablets are having a smaller appetite than usual, pain in your joints or muscles, or an upset stomach. Some people have reported feeling dizzy or giddy while they are taking terbinafine tablets.

Stop taking them and call a doctor immediately if you are experiencing serious side effects: yellow skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow, you bruise more easily, have a high temperature with a rash, experience severe pain near the top of your stomach that spreads to your back, or if your muscles feel weak or painful, or your pee changes color to a dark red-brown.

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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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