What is Itraconazole?

D. Jeffress

Itraconazole is a prescription drug used to treat several different types of severe fungal infections. The medicine comes in capsule and liquid forms as well as intravenous solutions for emergency situations. The risks of severe side effects and adverse drug reactions are low, but it is still important to inform a doctor of current medication use and medical history before taking itraconazole to limit the risks. In most cases, fungal infections are completely resolved after taking itraconazole for about three months.

Hives may be an indication of a medication allergy.
Hives may be an indication of a medication allergy.

Triazole antifungal drugs such as itraconazole work by infiltrating fungal cells in the body and inhibiting the proteins that are used to form protective cell membranes. Without strong membranes, fungi are unable to reproduce and are left more susceptible to attacks from immune system antibodies. The medication is effective against three main groups of fungi: histoplasmosis, aspergillosis, and blastomycosis. All three types can cause serious damage to the lungs, heart, and other major organs if they are left untreated. The goal of antifungal therapy is to stop the spread of pathogens while they are still isolated to a single organ.

A doctor can determine the proper dose and method of administration based on the type of fungus involved, its location in the body, and the age and health of the patient. Most adults are instructed to take a 200 milligram capsule or liquid dose twice daily for three months, even if symptoms resolve before the three-month mark. When itraconazole is injected in a hospital or doctor's office, the standard initial dose is 200 milligrams infused over the course of an hour. Another dose on the first day and single doses on each of the next five to ten days is usually sufficient to cure an infection.

Side effects associated with itraconazole are usually mild. They may include digestive problems such as stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Some people experience headaches, dizzy spells, chills, and muscle aches as well. Less commonly, itraconazole can cause high fevers, tremors, and excessive vomiting. An allergic reaction to the drug may result in throat swelling and skin hives. It is important to seek emergency room care if a person experiences trouble breathing or other severe side effects.

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Patients are usually encouraged to schedule periodic checkups while taking itraconazole so their doctors can gauge the effectiveness of treatment. If symptoms do not seem to be improving, a physician may decide to increase the dosage amount or try another type of antifungal medication. When the drug is used exactly how it is prescribed, the majority of patients are able to recover fully from their symptoms.

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