Prescription drugs for treating the feet include pain medicine, antibiotics for infections, and antifungal medicine. For instance, an ingrown toenail may require antibiotic or antifungal treatment if it becomes infected. For bunions and hammertoes, a cortisone injection may be given to relieve inflammation and pain.
Fungal nails make toenails thick, brittle, and discolored to white, yellow, or brown. The fungus grows deep in the nail bed, and it won't go away on its own. It also can spread to other toenails. "Discolored nails aren't always from fungus," says Andersen. "They could also be from trauma due to exercise or psoriasis, so we take a fungal culture to make a diagnosis."
Penlac (ciclopirox), made by Dermik Laboratories of Berwyn, Pa., is an example of a topical antifungal. It is generally used daily for several months for mild to moderate nail fungus. Side effects include irritation and redness around the nails. Oral medications for fungal infections, including fungal nails and athlete's foot, are Lamisil (terbinafine) made by Novartis Pharmaceuticals of East Hanover, N.J., and Sporanox (itraconazole), made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals of Titusville, N.J. These medicines travel through the bloodstream to attack the fungus. The tablets are taken daily for about 12 weeks. It takes about nine months for a healthy nail to grow in.
The most commonly reported side effects of the oral antifungals are headaches and stomachaches. In 2001, the FDA put out a public health advisory about both drugs and announced labeling changes. Both drugs have been associated with serious liver problems resulting in liver failure and death in rare cases. The FDA and the maker of Sporanox also warned against using Sporanox for those who have a heart condition, because of safety concerns.
Patients using these drugs should immediately report symptoms of persistent nausea, anorexia, fatigue, or vomiting, upper right abdominal pain or jaundice, dark urine, or pale stools. A simple blood test is used to check liver function during treatment.