The prevalence of onychomycosis, the most frequent cause of nail disease, ranges from 2% to 13%. Standard treatments include debridement, topical medications, and systemic therapies. This study assesses the efficacy and tolerability of topical application of 1% clotrimazole solution compared with that of 100% Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil for the treatment of toenail onychomycosis.
A double-blind, multicenter, randomized controlled trial was performed at two primary care health and residency training centers and one private podiatrist's office. The participants included 117 patients with distal subungual onychomycosis proven by culture. Patients received twice-daily application of either 1% clotrimazole (CL) solution or 100% tea tree (TT) oil for 6 months. Debridement and clinical assessment were performed at 0, 1, 3, and 6 months. Cultures were obtained at 0 and 6 months. Each patient's subjective assessment was also obtained 3 months after the conclusion of therapy.
The baseline characteristics of the treatment groups did not differ significantly. After 6 months of therapy, the two treatment groups were comparable based on culture cure (CL = 11%, TT = 18%) and clinical assessment documenting partial or full resolution (CL = 61%, TT = 60%). Three months later, about one half of each group reported continued improvement or resolution (CL = 55%; TT = 56%).
All current therapies have high recurrence rates. Oral therapy has the added disadvantages of high cost and potentially serious adverse effects. Topical therapy, including the two preparations presented in this paper, provide improvement in nail appearance and symptomatology. The use of a topical preparation in conjunction with debridement is an appropriate initial treatment strategy.