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Treatment Options for Genital Herpes

Treatment with antiviral drugs can help people who are bothered by genital herpes outbreaks stay symptom-free longer. These drugs can also reduce the severity and duration of symptoms when they do flare up. Drug therapy is not a cure, but it can make living with the condition easier.

There are three major drugs commonly used to treat genital herpes symptoms: acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are all taken in pill form. Severe cases may be treated with the intravenous (IV) drug acyclovir.

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Coping With a Genital Herpes Diagnosis

You have been told you're infected with a virus for which there is no cure, and one that affects a very sensitive area. That's crummy news but don't get too down about it. Above all, realize that genital herpes is very common. Chances are one of your friends, family members, or co-workers has it, too. If you have read about genital herpes, you know the statistic: About one in five people in the U.S. is infected. But you may not realize that some diseases we consider quite common are less so than...

Initial treatment. If you have symptoms such as sores when you're first diagnosed with genital herpes, your doctor will usually give you a brief course (seven to 10 days) of antiviral therapy to relieve them or prevent them from getting worse. Your doctor may keep you on the drugs longer if the sores don't heal in that time.

After the first treatment, work with your doctor to come up with the best way to take antiviral therapies. There are two options:

Intermittent treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug for you to keep on hand in case you have another flare-up; this is called intermittent therapy. You can take the pills for two to five days as soon as you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on. Sores will heal and disappear on their own, but taking the drugs can make the symptoms less severe and make them go away faster.

Suppressive treatment. If you have outbreaks often, you may want to consider taking an antiviral drug every day. Doctors call this suppressive therapy. For someone who has more than six outbreaks a year, suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70% to 80%. Many people who take the antiviral drugs daily have no outbreaks at all.

There is no set number of outbreaks per year that doctors use to decide when someone should start suppressive therapy. Rather, more important factors are how often the outbreaks happen and if they are severe enough to interfere with your life.

Taking daily suppressive therapy may also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to a sex partner. Antiviral drugs reduce viral shedding, when the virus makes new copies of itself on the skin's surface.

A recent study of people taking daily doses of valacyclovir shows the drug may help protect sex partners from being infected, although you should still use a condom. Half the partners of people taking daily valacyclovir became infected with the virus, and half did not. Moreover, 75% of the partners did not show any symptoms of genital herpes, even if they had acquired the virus. Side Effects and Follow-up Care for Genital Herpes

Side effects with these herpes drugs are considered mild, and health experts believe these drugs are safe in the long term. Acyclovir is the oldest of the three, and its safety has been documented in people taking suppressive therapy for several years.

People taking suppressive therapy should see their doctor at least once a year to decide if they should continue. You may find taking the pills every day to be inconvenient, the drugs may not work for you, or you may naturally have fewer outbreaks as time goes on. Your doctor can help you make treatment choices to suit your needs.

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Published on: 15.12.2013


Users' comments:

hores (15.12.2013-18:16) says:
How quickly can herpes sores disappear?
I just had what I thought was my second outbreak of herpes. The first one gave me about 4 sores which disappeared in a couple of weeks or so.
Two days ago I checked to see if I had any sores (as I had felt a bit uncomfortable) and there was absolutely nothing. I looked again yesterday and there was what I thought was a sore (if it was it came out much more quickly than the first time - they took a week to properly appear). However I just looked again today and there is nothing, not even a sign on my skin that a sore had been there.
Is this likely to have been a sore? I know antibodies can fight off the infection more quickly each time it appears on the skin but I would have thought that if a sore appeared it would still take a few days at least to appear and then to disappear again? Surely skin can't heal that quickly..

anny (15.12.2013-18:17) says:
it depends if its on the lips (more commonly known as Cold sores) if its downstairs, you really need to see your doctor. If its a cold sore you can get some cream over the counter for them. The most effective one is Blistex. It may sting alil or itch (As I have cold sores) but the cream works. If you still have the cold sore after a week, consult your doctor. If its in the downstairs area see your doctor and do not have any form of sex (even if it is a cold do not perform oral sex as it will spread to the other person) If its downstairs do not perform any form of sex. But consult your doctor.

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