Prescription Oral Antifungals for Athlete's Foot

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Prescription Oral Antifungals for Athlete's Foot


Oral allylamines

Generic NameBrand Name

Oral azoles

Generic NameBrand Name

Other antifungals

Generic NameBrand Name
griseofulvin Gris-PEG

Allylamines and azoles are different classes of antifungal medicine. Medicine from one class may work better for you than medicine from the other.

How It Works

Prescription oral antifungal medicines slow the growth of or kill fungi.

Oral medicines are usually taken for 1 to 8 weeks. The exact amount of time varies and depends on how much medicine you take each day.

If you stop taking the medicine early, even after your symptoms are gone, an athlete's foot infection will likely return. It is very important to take the entire course of medicine.

Why It Is Used

Oral antifungals for athlete's foot (tinea pedis) are usually only used for a severe infection or when topical antifungal medicines (those put directly on the skin) have not cured the infection. Some oral antifungals can also be used for fungal toenail infections, which may occur with athlete's foot.

How Well It Works

Research shows that oral antifungals successfully cure athlete's foot for many people. With moccasin-type athlete's foot, which is especially hard to cure, terbinafine seems to work as well as itraconazole.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Nausea, upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or yellowing of your skin or eyes (jaundice).
  • Flu symptoms, such as fever, chills, or body aches.
  • Severe blistering, peeling, or a red skin rash.
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue), or if you bruise or bleed easily.
  • Seizures.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Stomach upset.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Headaches.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

During oral antifungal treatment, you may need to have blood tests to check your liver and kidney function.

Tell your doctor about other medicines you are taking. Some medicines are not safe to take together with oral antifungals.

Do not drink alcohol while taking oral antifungals. Some forms of these medicines can cause or contribute to liver problems, which alcohol can make worse.

Taking ketoconazole (Nizoral) may cause serious liver problems. These problems have caused some deaths.

If you use an antacid, wait at least 2 hours before taking ketoconazole. Antacids reduce ketoconazole absorption from the stomach into the bloodstream.

Oral antifungals cost more than nonprescription topical antifungal medicines.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use these medicines if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Fuller LC (2010). Tinea pedis and skin dermatophytosis. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease, 3rd ed., pp. 740–742. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerPatrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Last RevisedJune 1, 2012

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