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Ciclopirox Olamine ( Penlac )

What is Ciclopirox?

Ciclopirox olamine (used in brand names Loprox, Ciclodan, Batrafen, Mycoster, Penlac and Stieprox) is an antifungal drug used most frequently to treat fungal infections of the skin such as athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm, “sun fungus” (tinea versicolor), dermatitis of the scalp, and other forms of yeast infection. In some cases, it may also be used to treat nail fungus.

Ciclopirox olamine is available in various topical forms including cream, gel, or lotion, nail lacquer, and shampoo. The form you are prescribed will depend upon the particular condition requiring treatment. The majority of skin infections are treated with ciclopirox in cream or lotion form. Infections affecting the nails are generally treated with ciclopirox nail lacquer. Scalp infections are often treated with ciclopirox shampoo.

In cream, gel, or lotion form, ciclopirox requires a doctor’s prescription. In its lacquer and shampoo forms, it may be obtained over the counter.

While the precise mechanism by which ciclopirox operates has not been conclusively observed, scientists conjecture that it inhibits the reproduction of fungi and in some cases bacteria by depleting the cell of certain elements essential to the integrity of the cell membrane. In the absence of these structural elements, the fungal or bacteria cell becomes permeable and susceptible to leakage, leading to its breakdown.

Ciclopirox Side Effects

Many of those who use ciclopirox in any of its forms form do so without experiencing side effects. Among those which have been reported, however, the most common are dermatological in nature. While being treated with ciclopirox or monitoring the treatment of another, pay close attention to the course of any side effect, noting whether it subsides over the course of treatment. If any of the following conditions occur for a temporary period of time or manifest only to a mild degree, they may not require medical attention. If, by contrast, any persist in the affected area, grow worse, or spread to new areas, consult your doctor immediately:

  • itching, burning, blistering, oozing, or other form of skin irritation
  • swelling
  • development of redness, hives, or rash
  • intensification of initial symptoms


In some cases, particular side effects have manifested in conjunction with the use of ciclopirox shampoo. Most have been mild, but a couple have warranted urgent medical attention. Less serious side effects may include the following. If any should any persist, grow worse, or spread to new areas, be sure to report them to your physician:

  • dandruff
  • headache
  • itching or irritation of the scalp
  • oily skin
  • development of a rash


More serious side effects that may result from the use of ciclopirox shampoo may require immediate attention. If you experience any of the following, consult your doctor right away:

  • fainting
  • rapid, pounding, or irregular heartbeat


In the use of ciclopirox nail solution, the following side effects have manifested. If you experience any of them, consult your doctor, as he or she may suspend or alter your treatment plan:

  • redness of the skin surrounding the nail
  • change in nail shape or color
  • ingrown toenail


Severe allergic reactions to Ciclopirox Olamine are rare but may occur and require immediate attention. Signs of an allergy may include fever, rash, severe dizziness, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty breathing, and itching/swelling, especially of the face, tongue, or throat. Be sure to tell your doctor of any existing allergies, especially if they have ever manifested in your use of other antifungal drugs.

While no known drug interactions have been identified in association with ciclopirox, as with any medication, always inform your doctor and your pharmacist of any drugs or supplements you use, including those which are natural, herbal, or homeopathic.

Exercise particular caution if you have a personal or family history of

  • diabetes
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • herpes
  • seizures
  • immune system deficiency or weakness, whether resulting from disease or medication (including HIV)
  • corticosteroid use (for, among other purposes, a skin condition or breathing disorder)
  • organ transplant


Women who are pregnant or nursing should also seriously consult with their doctors before taking this drug. At present, there is insufficient data to determine whether topical forms of ciclopirox may pass into breast milk and negative affect a nursing child. While, due to the fact that the drug is not absorbed into the bloodstream, most doctors consider the risk of milk transmission minimal, each patient who is or may become pregnant should discuss the associated costs, benefits, and risks with her respective physician. Depending on the particular condition requiring treatment, it may be safest to wait until the baby has been delivered and stopped nursing before introducing this medication into the mother’s system. In no case should a nursing mother use topical ciclopirox on the breast while nursing. Oral contact by a nursing child could lead to rapid absorption and negative side effects.

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