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When Does Terbinafine Start to Work: Debunking The Myths

If you ever had an athlete’s foot, you might be acquainted with the drug “Terbinafine”, which is a medication used to treat superficial fungal skin infections. There have been varied opinions regarding the usage of this medication.

This brings us to the question when does Terbinafine start to work.

The onset of action and effectiveness of drugs may be rapid or take weeks to actually work on the affected site. Terbinafine is no exception. It depends mostly on the type and site of infection. Some fungal infections take 3-4 weeks while others take 3 months, or perhaps even more to get cured.

This article will contain vital information on the use and usefulness of Terbinafine. Now let’s dig in!

Table of Content

When Does Terbinafine Start to Work?

Terbinafine is a prescription medication that belongs to the category of systemic antifungal drugs. The brand names of terbinafine under which they are sold are Lamisil and Terbinex.

It works by inhibiting the growth of fungus and helps to treat various skin diseases, particularly fungal infections caused typically by dermatophytes or Candida species. Fungal nail infections may also be treated using this drug. 


This drug is relatively safe and has a higher cure rate among other drugs of the similar category. Moreover, the side effects are the least harmful in comparison. Hence, Terbinafine is considered as one of the best choices of drugs for years with higher cure rates to treat diseases caused by fungus 

But there is a common complaint among the consumers – the variable duration of recovery taken by Terbinafine. A lot of the users said they could recover within a few days. Meanwhile, others having the same type of infection on the same location of the body said their recovery process took a long time and there were additional side effects that followed.

Here is a brief description that highlights the efficiency of this widely used antifungal drug.

Terbinafine drug information infographic

Duration of Recovery

Terbinafine is a drug that takes a variable amount of time to show its effectiveness in order to cure the infection. The duration of the recovery process will depend on multiple conditions which need to be taken under consideration. 

Unlike most other remedies, Terbinafine takes time to heal the symptoms of fungal diseases. This duration will depend on various factors like what type of infection it is, its location on the body, which type of drug formulation is being used and if there are other pre-existing medical conditions that delay the process of recovery. 

Now if we consider the specific diseases for the potency of Terbinafine, then you will get a number of different opinions among the patients. Ringworm infections take 4-6 weeks to heal, athlete’s foot takes 2-6 weeks, surprisingly 3-4 months if you have a fingernail infection. It may take longer too. These infections take less time to heal if you are young. 

It usually takes 6 weeks or more to treat infections on fingernails and up to 12 weeks in toenails. If you have an infection on your big toe, it will take longer to heal. If you have already completed the course of medicine and still have the affected skin unhealed and not fully restored to normal, you must discuss this with the doctor. 

In this regard, dosing is another factor responsible for the wavering in the recovery process. You can be recommended to use cream or gel and oral tablets according to the nature of the infection. Usually, all forms of the drug- ointments, solutions, spray and tablets are used among consumers. 

Most people go for oral tablets as they are good enough to treat skin conditions and show faster response. That doesn’t indicate ointments are not satisfactory enough. You may use it too. However, the types of infection where the affected site lies deep under the nail bed, may require oral tablets because the solution/ointment of Terbinafine is impenetrable to the nails and underlying structures. 

Now that you have known about the aspects that can contribute to the usefulness and use of Terbinafine, you might as well distinguish between them. Just because you have a skin condition and you are using Terbinafine doesn’t mean that the medicine is inappropriate and incapable of restoring your health condition to bounce back to normal again. 

But don’t you worry about it! With reasonable care and treatment, your skin will get back to its original form in no time. Remind yourself that fungal infections take a little while to heal and these antifungal drugs take a substantial amount of time to rehabilitate the infected skin onto its actual shape.

Nevertheless, do not forget to talk to your doctor if you see side effects and even if you don’t see improvements in the healing process. 

Clinical Uses

Terbinafine is used to treat skin and fungal infections like- 

  • Onychomycosis
  • Athlete’s foot (Tinea Pedis) 
  • Ringworm in the groin area, scalp etc
  • Jock itch in groin and buttock.
  • Pityriasis Versicolor
  • Chromoblastomycosis
  • Nail infections 
  • Tinea capitis etc


Now, this is a vital part of this drug because the potency and use of the drug depend on the dosing. Terbinafine is available in several forms of administration. It is available as oral tablets, cream, ointment, spray, granulated powder etc. It is taken on an oral route and used for topical application both as per requirement. Dosing will be different for patients coming of different ages and types of infection. 

  • Oral tablet– Adults suffering from various types of disease are generally asked to take 250 mg once daily for 6 weeks (fingernail infections) and 12 weeks (toenail infections) This shall vary in terms of nature of the disease. Children will be given the dose according to their age and body weight. 
  • Cream or ointment – Apply to the area once daily and keep the area clean and dry. 
  • Spray– Apply it on the affected area the way your physician suggested. Do not spray on openings or surrounding areas like the mouth, ear, genital region etc. 

It is best to take Terbinafine oral tablets or granules to take after taking your meal. For topical uses, make sure to apply the ointment or cream with a clean and properly washed hand. 

Possible Side Effects of Terbinafine

Where there is a medicine in use, there will be some side effects, mild or severe. The adverse effects of Terbinafine are usually mild, but they may sustain for a few days. There is a conceivable risk of having severe side effects but the incidence is extremely rare. The common side effects are:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloated stomach
  • Tummy ache
  • Significant Mood changes- restlessness, depression etc
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Sleep changes
  • Fatigue etc

Severe side effects are unlikely to occur but can not be entirely impossible. These include 

  • Changes in stool and urine
  • Hives that keeps spreading 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss due
  • Rash or blisters
  • Itching
  • Serious allergic reaction- anaphylaxis that leads to swollen face, wheezing, breathing problems etc

Who Should Not Use Terbinafine and Why?

This medicine is virtually safe to use, in all types of dosage formulations. However, certain conditions require you to use 

  • Liver problems
  • Autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Depression
  • Allergic reaction to oral terbinafine
  • Hypersensitivity- skin rash for other conditions
  • Bleeding disorders 
  • Immunocompromised patients 

The good thing is, you can use oral Terbinafine drugs and apply the solution or cream form of this medicine if you are pregnant, unlike most drugs which are contraindicated during this crucial phase of life. It’s also safe to use Terbinafine if you are a breastfeeding mother.

Elderly patients are not subjected to these warning signs but they are likely to develop age-related problems that include liver, kidney and heart problems. So, it’s better to consult with a doctor or look for alternative options. 

Precautions: Drug interactions 

In case you are taking the following drugs, you must review with your physician as Terbinafine may interact with these drugs.

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Antidepressant medicines
  • Rifampicin
  • Warfarin
  • Codeine
  • Beta-blockers class of drugs
  • Tramadol

It is essential to note that consumption of alcohol and tobacco needs to be limited, better if discontinued since they can cause drug interaction and weaken the process of recovery. 


  1. Does Terbinafine cause liver damage?

Terbinafine is said to be hepatotoxic. It is said to cause diseases of the liver starting from acute hepatitis to liver failure. Hence you must check liver enzymes if you are under this medication for some time. Visit the doctor if you see darkening urine, nausea, stomach pain etc.

  1. What if you missed a dose of Terbinafine?

Take the medicine or apply the cream/ointment when you miss a dose. It will not hamper the recovery process since it takes a while to heal the site of infection.

  1. Which one is better among terbinafine – tablet or ointment?

Ointment and tablets both are effective and depend on the type of disease you are having. But oral tablets are said to work faster than cream or ointments. It may be caused because many infections are located too deep to penetrate the skin. Hence, tablets are considered a better option.


To this point, I believe you have your doubts cleared on when Terbinafine starts to work. Whatever the scenario is, Terbinafine has been successfully treating skin conditions for years, making it a durable choice of drug.

Maintain hygiene and keep your hands-feet dry. Change your undergarments, socks and gloves from time to time if you want to prevent fungal infections. Consult with your doctor if you feel necessary.

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