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Itraconazole tablets

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have a fungal nail infection. It tells you about itraconazole tablets, a treatment used for fungal nail infections. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

Yes. If you take itraconazole tablets you're more likely to get rid of your fungal nail infection than if you don't have any treatment.

Itraconazole tablets may not work as well as terbinafine tablets.

What are they?

Itraconazole is an antifungal drug (a drug that kills fungi). It's used to treat infections that are caused by fungi, including those that affect fingernails and toenails. It doesn't change the way that damaged nails look. But, by stopping the fungus, it allows new nails to grow normally.

The brand name for itraconazole tablets is Sporanox.

You'll need to take itraconazole tablets for at least three months. There are two ways you can take itraconazole tablets:

  • You can take them every day. This is called continuous treatment

  • Or you can take them for one week in every four weeks. This is called pulsed treatment or intermittent treatment.

How can they help?

If you take itraconazole tablets every day for 12 weeks, there's a 6 in 10 chance you'll get rid of your fungal nail infection. [18]

And taking itraconazole tablets every day for one week out of every four weeks can work just as well as taking them continuously for 12 weeks or 16 weeks. [18]

But itraconazole tablets may not work as well as terbinafine tablets. [18]

How do they work?

Like most antifungal drugs, itraconazole stops the fungus growing. [19] So eventually the fungus dies. This will allow new nail to grow normally.

Can they be harmful?

All antifungal tablets can cause diarrhoea, a rash, or breathing problems. [18] But not many people get these problems. They are usually mild and go away when you stop taking the tablets.

Sometimes people get more serious side effects. These are rare but it is important to know about them. Itraconazole can cause liver problems and heart problems.

Liver problems

Itraconazole can cause liver problems, so you'll need to have regular tests to make sure your liver is working normally.

You should call your doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dark urine.

Heart problems

Itraconazole may cause heart failure.

You should call your doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble catching your breath

  • Coughing

  • Feeling weak

  • Feeling very tired

  • Feeling confused

  • Weight gain

  • Swelling in your legs or feet.

The Committee on Safety of Medicines, the government organisation that looks at the safety of medicines, says that doctors should be careful when they prescribe itraconazole to people who are at high risk of heart failure. This includes: [20]

  • People who take high doses of itraconazole for a long time

  • Older people

  • People with heart disease

  • People taking certain types of heart drugs, such as calcium channel blockers.

Last Updated: December 05, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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