Antifungal medicines - Side effects  

Side effects of antifungal medicines  

Reporting side effects 

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine  you are taking. It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). See the Yellow Card Scheme website for more information about this.

Antifungal medicines can cause side effects. These will differ depending on the type of antifungal medicine you are using.

Topical antifungals

Topical antifungal medicines, such as creams, can cause:

  • itching
  • a mild burning sensation
  • redness

Stop using the medicine if any of these side effects are severe and see your GP or pharmacist to find an alternative.

Oral antifungals

Side effects of oral antifungals, such as capsules, include:

These side effects are usually mild and only last for a short period of time.

Antifungals can also cause severe reactions, such as:

  • an allergic reaction – swelling of your face, neck or tongue or difficulty breathing
  • a severe skin reaction – such as peeling or blistering skin

If you experience any of these reactions, stop taking your medicine and contact your GP immediately.

If you are having difficulty breathing, visit the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital or call 999 for an ambulance.

Liver damage

Liver damage is a rare, but more serious, side effect of oral antifungals. In particular, ketoconazole has been linked to liver problems.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, stop taking your medicine and contact your GP because they may be caused by damage to your liver:

  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • feeling sick for a long time
  • jaundice – yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes 
  • unusually dark urine or pale faeces (stools)
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

Intravenous antifungals

Amphotericin (amphotericin B) is the most commonly used intravenous antifungal. This is usually given in hospital as an intravenous infusion (a continuous drip of medicine into a vein in your arm).

Side effects of amphotericin include:

  • loss of appetite 
  • feeling sick
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • epigastric pain (pain in the upper part of your tummy)
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • chills
  • headache 
  • muscle and joint pain
  • anaemia (a reduced number of red blood cells)
  • a rash

Amphotericin can also affect your:

  • kidneys – causing abnormally low levels of some minerals in your blood, such as potassium or magnesium  
  • heart – causing an irregular heartbeat or changes in your blood pressure
  • liver – affecting the way your liver functions, for example, causing a build-up of bilirubin in the blood; bilirubin is a yellow substance that is produced when red blood cells are broken down  
  • nervous system – affecting your brain, nerves and spinal cord, causing conditions such as hearing loss or peripheral neuropathy

As amphotericin is given in hospital under supervision, any adverse effects are usually quickly detected and treated.

Page last reviewed: 28/08/2012

Next review due: 28/08/2014

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The Yellow Card Scheme

The MHRA has produced a video that explains how the Yellow Card Scheme can be used to report the side effects of medication