Treatment of onychomycosis: pros and cons of antifungal agents

J Cutan Med Surg. 2004 Jan-Feb;8(1):25-30. doi: 10.1007/s10227-003-0109-x. Epub 2004 Jan 23.


Background: Antifungal agents are beneficial in the treatment of onychomycosis in the general population, as well as in children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. Special patient populations can be more difficult to treat due to such factors as drug interactions with concomitant medications, adverse events, and poor compliance. In addition, there is limited information about the use of antifungal agents in special populations, e.g., children.

Objective: The pros and cons of oral and topical antifungal agents are discussed, with focus on special patient populations.

Methods: We searched MedLine (1966 to April 2003) for clinical studies evaluating the efficacy of oral and topical antifungal agents to treat onychomycosis. The key words used in conjunction with "onychomycosis" include: "terbinafine," "itraconazole," "fluconazole," "amorolfine nail lacquer," "ciclopirox nail lacquer," "HIV," "transplant patients," "diabetes," "children," and "elderly." Studies were excluded if published in a language other than English.

Results: Studies have shown that antifungal agents can be of benefit in treating the elderly, children, and immunocompromised individuals (e.g., transplant patients, Down's patients, HIV patients, and diabetics) with onychomycosis.

Conclusion: The treatment modality of onychomycosis in special patient populations should take into account the clinical presentation of the onychomycosis, the causative organism, patient and physician preference, the concomitant medications that the patient is on, and the potential for adverse events for that patient if antifungal therapy is undertaken.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Antifungal Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Onychomycosis / drug therapy*
  • Onychomycosis / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antifungal Agents