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Types of antifungal drugs; Forms, how to use and its side effects

Study guide

Fungi are found all over the world and in different environments and most of them are not the cause of the disease. However, different types of fungal infections are also caused by contact with fungi or fungal spores in the air. The use of antifungal drugs is one of the great ways to treat this type of disease. In this article, you will learn more about different types of antifungal drugs, how they work and the important points related to them.

The most common fungal infections

Most fungal infections affect areas such as the skin, nails, and mucous membranes. Some of them can cause more serious problems and be potentially life-threatening with meningitis or pneumonia.

Some examples of the most common fungal infections are:

  • Ringwarm or tinea: A fungal infection of the skin that occurs on the scalp, legs, groin and some other parts of the body.
  • Nail fungus: A fungal infection that usually occurs on toenails, but may also affect fingernails.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: This infection is caused by the overgrowth of Candida yeast in and around the vagina.
  • Oral thrush: When Candida yeast grows too much in the mouth.

More serious fungal infections

Fungal pneumonia, fungal meningitis, and even structural infections, including fungal infections, are less common but more serious. Some examples of more serious fungal infections:

  • candidate;
  • Aspergillus;
  • Coccidiosis;
  • Histoplasma;
  • Cryptococcus;
  • Blastomycosis.

Types of antifungal drugs

There are several types of antifungal medications and may be oral medications, topical ointments, or intravenous injections, depending on the type of medication, the type of infection, and the severity.

Keep in mind that antifungal drugs are different from antibiotics. Antibiotics do not kill fungi and are used to kill bacteria. In fact, taking antibiotics increases the risk of fungal infections. For example, many women develop thrush after a period of antibiotic use because the antibiotic kills natural and low-risk bacteria in the skin and vagina, making it easier for the fungus to grow.

Antifungal drugs are classified based on their chemical properties and how they work. In the following, we will explain about different types of antifungal drugs.


Azoles are one of the most widely used types of antifungal drugs, which disrupt the enzyme needed to make the fungal cell membrane. By destabilizing the cell membrane and leaking cell contents, the fungal cell is destroyed.

Azoles have two subsets:

  • Imidazole;
  • Triazole.

Types of imidazole and its target diseases

  • Ketoconazole: Skin and hair infections, Candida infections of the skin and mucous membranes, Blastomycosis, Histoplasmosis.
  • Clotrimazole: Infections of the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Miconazole: Infections of the skin and mucous membranes.

Types of triazole and its target diseases

  • Fluconazole: Candida infections include mucosal, structural and invasive infections, Cryptococcus.
  • Itraconazole: Aspergillus, blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, Candida mucosal infection, coccidiomycosis or valley fever, onychomycosis or nail fungus.
  • Posaconazole: Aspergillus, mucosal and invasive candidate infections.
  • Vericonazole: Aspergillus, a mucosal and invasive candidate infection, Fusarium-related infections.
  • Isoconazole: Aspergillus and mucormycosis.


Polyenes make the fungus prone to bursting and destroying it by creating large pores in the cell wall.

Types of polyps and its target diseases

  • Amphotericin: Its various forms are used to treat Aspergillus, Blastomycosis, Cryptococcus, Histoplasmosis, Candida or invasive mucosal infections, and Coccidiomycosis.
  • Nystatin: Candidate infections of the skin and mouth.


Allylamines, like azoles, interfere with the enzyme that makes fungal cell membranes. Terbinafine is an example of allylamine commonly used to treat fungal infections of the skin.


Echinocandins are a new type of antifungal drug that inhibits the enzyme that makes fungal cell walls.

Types of echinocandins and its target diseases

  • Anidolafungin: Candidate mucosal and invasive infections.
  • Caspofungin: Candidate and invasive infections and Aspergillus.
  • Micafungin: Candidate mucosal and invasive infections.

Miscellaneous medicine or Miscellaneous

There is another type of antifungal drug that works differently from previous drugs. Some examples of this drug:

  • Phylocytosine: It is a kind of antifungal drug that prevents the nucleic acid and proteins of the fungus from being made and the cell can not grow for a long time. Philocytosine is used to treat structural infections related to Candida and Cryptococcus.
  • Griseofulvin: It prevents fungal cell proliferation and can be used to treat infections of the skin, hair and nails.

Different forms of antifungal drugs

Ointment, spray or antifungal solution

These drugs are designed to treat infections of the skin, scalp and nails. Some examples of these drugs:

  • Clotrimazole;
  • Econazole;
  • Ketoconazole;
  • Miconazole;
  • Thioconazole;
  • Terbinafine;
  • Amorolfine.

Antifungal ointment is sometimes combined with another cream, such as a mild steroid cream, hydrocortisone, for example to treat certain pimples. In this case, antifungal ointment in the treatment of infection and steroid ointment in the treatment of inflammation caused by infection.

Antifungal shampoo

Shampoo containing cetaconazole is sometimes used to help treat fungal infections of the scalp and certain skin conditions.

Vaginal suppository

The suppositories are pills designed to be inserted into the vagina. Some antifungal drugs that are used in suppository form to treat vaginal thrush:

  • Clotrimazole;
  • Econazole;
  • Miconazole;
  • Fenticonazole.

Oral antifungal drugs

There are several types of antifungal pills, such as miconazole oral gel and liquid nystatin, which are used to treat thrush. Some other types are in pill form, such as:

  • Terbinafine;
  • Itraconazole;
  • Fluconazole;
  • Posaconazole;
  • Vericonazole.

These drugs are used to treat a variety of fungal infections and their choice depends on the type of infection.

Injectable antifungal drug

If there is a serious fungal infection in the body, an injectable antifungal drug is used to treat it. Some of these drugs are:

  • Amphotericin;
  • Flucytosine;
  • Itraconazole;
  • Vriconazole;
  • Anidolafungin;
  • Caspofungin;
  • Micafungin.

These drugs are specialized and are usually prescribed to people hospitalized.

How antifungal drugs work

Antifungal drugs generally work in two ways:

  • Directly kill fungal cells;
  • They prevent the growth of fungal cells.

Antifungal drugs target the structure or function that is essential for fungal cells. Therefore, they fight fungal infections without damaging the cells of the human body. The two structures most commonly targeted are the fungal membrane and cell wall. Both of these structures cover and protect the fungal cell. Whenever one of these two structures is compromised, the fungal cell explodes and dies.

Possible side effects of antifungal drugs

Types of antifungal drugs - Possible side effects of antifungal drugs

You should read the accompanying medication guide to check for possible side effects. In general, there may be the following possible side effects for each medication:

Antifungal cream, spray, solution and shampoo: These medications usually do not have side effects, but sometimes some people feel a little itchy or burnt in the area where the medication was given, or their skin becomes red in that area. If these side effects are severe, you should stop taking the medicine. Also, some women develop inflammation around the vagina after taking vaginal antifungal drugs.

Oral antifungal drugs: The most commonly used are terbinafine for nail infections, miconazole and nystatin for thrush, and fluconazole for vaginal thrush. These drugs usually have no side effects and even fluconazole is sold without a prescription, but some antifungal drugs can cause liver problems and more serious side effects in some people, some of which are mentioned below:

  • Terbinafine: Sometimes it causes abdominal pain and discomfort, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, headache, pimples, taste disturbances and muscle or joint pain.
  • Fluconazole: May cause nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, headache and pimples.
  • Miconazole: May cause nausea or vomiting.
  • Nystatin: May cause sore mouth.
  • Injectable antifungals: These drugs are more likely to cause side effects and serious problems. However, they are used to treat serious fungal infections and the balance between side effects and the need for treatment must be considered.

Duration of treatment with antifungal drug

  • Fungal infections of the skin, such as athlete’s foot or ringworm: The cream is usually used for a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 6 weeks.
  • Fungal nail infection: If you use a pill like terbinafine, the treatment usually lasts 2 months.
  • Fungal infections in the legs: The disease is more serious and the specialist determines the duration of treatment.

Who is most at risk for fungal infections?

Anyone can get a fungal infection, but it is more common in people with weakened immune systems. For example:

  • People with transplanted organs;
  • People undergoing treatment for cancer;
  • People living with HIV or HIV;
  • People who have just been hospitalized;
  • People taking immunosuppressive drugs.

Who can not use antifungal drugs?

In general, everyone can use anti-fungal cream without any problems. If in doubt, consult your doctor.

  • The antifungal pill is stronger than the cream and may interfere with other medications you are taking. You should consult your doctor before taking antifungal pills.
  • Adolescents should generally not take antifungal pills, but there is nothing wrong with using a cream.
  • Older people should consult a doctor before taking antifungal pills, but they can use antifungal cream.

Final points

You can get over-the-counter antifungal creams such as clotrimazole and terbinafine or the oral drug flucinazole.

Remember that using the wrong cream may make your skin infection worse. For example, steroids should not be used to treat athlete’s foot because it makes the disease worse, and in this case only steroid-free terbinafine should be used.

You say

Have you ever had a specific fungal infection? What medicine did you use to treat it? Did it have any side effects? If you wish, you can share your experience and opinion with us in the “Send Comment” section and send this article to your friends through social networks.

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you should consult your doctor or specialist to use it. more information





Types of antifungal drugs; Forms, how to use and its side effects

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