In addition to its high success rate, one appealing aspect of laser treatment for toenail fungus is that it does not involve taking oral drugs, which can have severe and life-threatening side effects.

Why there are side effects

Although fungi seem very different from us, they are actually closely related to animals at the cellular level. Thus, toenail fungi have some similarities to humans in how their cells function. This means that drugs that treat fungal diseases can have unintended effects on the activities of human cells, leading to negative interactions in people that take oral antifungal drugs.

These types of drugs were originally developed to treat fungal infections in AIDS patients and can cause severe side effects in people that take them to treat toenail infection.

Toenail Fungus

Lamisil can cause liver damage

While most people take the drug terbanafine (Lamisil) without any problem, it is possible for this drug to cause severe liver damage. There is enough concern for this potential problem that the doctors of patients who use this drug frequently require them to take blood tests to confirm that their livers are functioning well.

People who take Lamisil should be aware of the symptoms of liver damage, so they can quickly report them to their doctor. These include nausea, jaundice, pain in the upper stomach, loss of appetite, abnormally colored stool and urine, and itching.

It is very important for patients who take this drug to tell their doctor if they have any of these symptoms, since there have been rare cases of liver failure associated with the use of this drug.

Other potential side effects of Lamisil

Severe swelling under the skin has also been associated with the use of terbinafine. One symptom of this is the development of hives around the eyes and mouth. If a patient has a severe rash that doesn’t get better, he or she needs to contact their doctor as soon as possible.

Another type of problem that can occur from taking this drug is visual defects due to changes in the retina and lens of the eyes. Patients who experience any visual problems should quickly consult their doctor. Some patients have developed systemic lupus erythematosus from taking Lamisil.

Black box warning for Sporonox

The other primary oral drug for treating toenail fungus is itraconazole, also known as Sporanox. The FDA has issued its strongest alert—a black box warning—to say that this drug should not be used in people with a history of congestive heart failure.

The FDA has reported multiple cases of patients taking itraconazole who developed this serious, and sometimes fatal, heart condition. In addition, liver toxicity can be another side effect from taking Sporanox.

Many compounds interact with antifungal drugs

Patients who choose to take oral antifungal drugs to treat toenail fungus need to be thorough about telling their doctor about all of the drugs, vitamins, herbal preparations, and supplements that they take. Many of these can interact with terbinafine or itraconazole to cause negative reactions.

It is particularly important to mention classes of drugs such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), drugs that suppress the immune system, antidepressants, beta-blockers, and Tagamet (cimetidine). Patients will need to be more closely monitored for side effects if they take any of these types of drugs.

Women who are nursing or pregnant need to tell their doctor before taking such drugs, because the compounds can pass through the breast milk into the infants. It is very important for doctors to be aware of pre-existing health conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, lupus, or a history of depression. Taking these drugs can be a serious commitment, since they often need to be taken for six to twelve weeks to cure toenail fungus.

Adam Lambert writes for the Houston Nail Clinic, whose mission is to rid the world of toenail fungus and fingernail fungus. Writing about treatment for toenail fungus allows people to learn about the best methods for getting rid of this unsightly infection.

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