Management of toenail onychomycosis

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The treatment of toenail onychomycosis is reviewed.

Onychomycosis contributes to 40% of all nail disorders and appears to be increasing in frequency.Mycotic nail infections are usually caused by dermatophytes, yeasts, and nondermatophyte molds. Most cases of toenail onychomycosis are caused by dermatophytes. Mycotic nail infections do not always resolve spontaneously and may have a substantial impact on the patient's quality of life. Current treatment modalities for onychomycosis include surgery, topical antifungals, and oral antifungals. Surgery is generally not recommended as first-line therapy. Broad-spectrum topical and oral antifungal agents are the most frequently used treatments. Topical treatment is well tolerated but is usually not effective because of poor patient compliance and inadequate penetration of the nail. Oral antifungals are more successful but carry greater risks. Griseofulvin and ketoconazole have been oral antifungals traditionally used for onychomycosis, but these agents are associated with relatively low cure rates. Itraconazole and terbinafine are both safe and effective first-line agents, with reported overall cure rates of 50-90% for dermatophyte-related onychomycosis. Intermittent oral antifungal therapy may reduce the risk of systemic adverse effects and the cost of therapy; more study of this approach is needed.

Oral antifungal agents offer patients with toenail onychomycosis greater likelihood of a cure than topical antifungals, but oral therapy carries greater risks and requires closer monitoring.

Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 1999; 56:865-71

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