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Terbinafine, an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved drug also known by the brand name Lamisil, is a medication used to treat fungal infections. Specifically, terbinafine is used to treat fungal infections of the fingernails or toenails (such as onychomycosis). While fighting nail fungus is the main function, terbinafine can also used orally to treat scalp issues and improve hair follicle health in children four years old or older.
Terbinafine is taken orally in tablet or granule form, and does not have to be taken with food in the tablet form. The granule format should be sprinkled on pudding or some other soft food. However, it should not be mixed with anything that contains fruit or is acidic.
Terbinafine is typically taken for 6-12 weeks, with the shorter end of the spectrum being used for scalp or fingernail infections and the longer treatment for toenail fungal infections. As always, the medication should be taken for the full prescribed length of time.
If a dose is missed, it should be taken as soon as you remember the dose was missed unless it is almost time to take the next dose. Unlike medications such as birth control, doses should not be doubled up to make up for a missed day.
While taking oral terbinafine, you should avoid all sources of caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, caffeine pills, etc.).
Additionally, terbinafine can increase sensitivity to sunlight, like many other antifungal or antibacterial medicines. Do not use tanning beds, and be more careful with sunscreen and coverage when outside.
Terbinafine, like most prescription drugs, can have multiple side effects of varying severity, depending on how your body reacts to the drug.
Some minor and common side effects of terbinafine include:
● Diarrhea, nausea, and/or general gastrointestinal distress or abdominal pain
● Skin Rash
● Headaches of varying severity
● Abnormal liver function tests
These side effects, again, can vary in severity, and an abnormal liver function test is not necessarily cause for alarm. Consult your doctor with any questions.
If any of these serious side effects occur, a doctor should be contacted immediately and use of the drug should be discontinued. Any manifestation of allergic reaction or severe symptoms like swollen glands, flu-like symptoms, hair loss, muscle aches, or a severe skin reaction necessitates a doctor visit immediately. Other severe side effects include:
● Symptoms of liver problems / liver damage (e.g., nausea, severe stomach pain, tiredness, dark urine, jaundice, loss of appetite, loss of taste, severe vomiting)
● Major changes in your senses of taste or smell
● Depression symptoms
● Pale skin
● Easy bruising
● Unusual bleeding from any area (nose, mouth, vagina, rectum)
● Rapid weight loss or weight gain
● Blood in urine or stool
● Skin sores
It should be noted that there have been cases of terbinafine users who developed severe liver damage that led to transplant or death. In these cases, it was unclear if the terbinafine was a direct cause, and the patients typically had pre-existing severe medical conditions.
Again, if any of the symptoms outlined here with the major side effects occur, contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately for medical advice. Some of these symptoms may take several weeks to manifest, but a doctor should still be contacted as soon as any of these symptoms appear.
Again, like many other antifungal and antibacterial medications, terbinafine tablets can have negative interactions with prescription drugs, vitamins, and even herbal products.
Fully inform your doctor of all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, that you are taking. He or she may require that you stop using some or all of these products before starting terbinafine.
Terbinafine, while successful for most people with fungal nail infections, can take a while to demonstrate its long-term effect.
Nails may take several months to return to normal color, so do not be alarmed by continued discoloration or yellowing after finishing the prescribed Terbinafine medication dosage and make sure not to have any missed doses.
You may also need frequent blood tests or liver function tests while using terbinafine.