Genital Herpes Treatment

Genital Herpes Treatment


Aciclovir Tablets

Aciclovir Tablets

From £9.89

Valaciclovir Tablets

Valaciclovir Tablets

From £22.89

Valtrex Tablets

Valtrex Tablets

From £33.89


What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The infection causes sores which can become painful, itchy blisters.

It is passed on through vaginal, oral and anal sex, and lies dormant in the body with the potential to reactivate. Symptoms of genital herpes can clear up on their own, but can return. Medication can treat genital herpes, easing symptoms and reducing the risk of you infecting others.

They appear as small spots around the genital region (usually in bunches) and surrounding areas, including the anus. The spots then fill with liquid before bursting to leave sores.

Genital herpes is a lifelong condition, and symptoms can reoccur around four to five times in the first couple of years of being infected. As time progresses, outbreaks become less frequent and less severe. Some people with genital herpes won’t experience any symptoms for months or years after having first been infected with the virus, whilst others will never experience any symptoms and probably not know that they have herpes.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 67 percent of people under the age of 50 (3.7 billion) have genital herpes and have the HSV-1 category of the virus, while 13 percent of the same age group (491 million) have the HSV-2 category of the virus. In the UK, government figures show that genital herpes accounted for 7 per cent of new STI diagnoses that were made at sexual health services in 2019.

To find out more about genital herpes, take a look at our ‘What Is Genital Herpes’ blog.

How do you catch genital herpes?

Genital herpes is passed on during vaginal, oral and anal sex, but it can also be spread via other kinds of skin-to-skin contact. The herpes simplex virus that causes genital herpes enters the body via mucous membranes, which are thin tissue layers that line the openings of the body, such as the mouth, nose and genitals. 

The HSV-1 and HSV-2 types of herpes simplex are found in bodily fluids including semen, saliva and vaginal secretions.

You can become infected with genital herpes:

  • By having unprotected sex (including vaginal, anal and oral)
  • By sharing sex toys with an infected person
  • If your genitals come into contact with an infected person’s genitals, even if there is no penetration or ejaculate present
  • Oral sex with someone who has a cold sore. The cold sore contains the herpes simplex virus, which may be transmitted to your genitals

You cannot catch genital herpes from:

  • Kissing, hugging or sharing a bed with an infected person
  • Toilet seat or swimming pools
  • Objects such as towels, cups or cutlery

This is because the virus is not able to survive well outside of the human body.

Genital herpes symptoms

Many people who have the HSV virus will not be aware, because there are no signs or symptoms, or that symptoms are too mild to notice. When symptoms are present, they can begin from two to 12 days after being exposed to the virus. 

The skin around the genital region is likely to inflame at first, causing a tingling, burning or itching sensation. As the virus replicates, small red blisters that are usually bunched together in areas, may start to appear. 

Fluid then builds up inside the blisters, giving them a yellow appearance. The blisters then burst, leaving red sores that are painful and tender to touch.

Symptoms of genital herpes can include:

  • Small white blisters or red bumps – these can present themselves a few days or weeks after becoming infected
  • Itching in the genital region
  • Pain in the genital region
  • Ulcers – that can form after blisters have ruptured, oozing pus or bleeding. Ulcers from genital herpes can make urination painful
  • Scabs – that are the result of the ulcers healing as skin crusts
  • Flu-like symptoms – such as fever, muscle aches, headache and swollen lymph nodes in the groin. These symptoms are typically experienced during an initial outbreak

Symptoms do not appear after first being infected and tend to present in the first few weeks after contracting the infection. They may also present after several months or years, or never at all. 

If you experience any symptoms in the form of blisters, you should speak to your GP about getting tested, or order a herpes test kit online.

What areas of the body do genital herpes affect?

The location at which symptoms are experienced will vary according to where the virus entered the body, and where it spread to. Men and women can have symptoms in different places:

Genital warts vs herpes

Human papillomavirus (HPV) - the virus which causes genital warts - and herpes, are both common STIs. 

HPV is more common than herpes, and it is understood that nearly all sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their life. Both viruses have the potential to cause genital lesions, and they can also both present without any symptoms. For this reason, it can be hard for some people to tell which one they have. 

While genital warts and herpes can both be passed on via sex, the sores have different causes, and different treatments. In general, the symptoms of herpes are more painful. Using condoms can significantly reduce your risk of both genital warts and herpes. 

Can genital herpes be cured?

There is no known cure for the herpes simplex virus, but getting treatment - such as antiviral drugs - can reduce outbreaks of genital herpes. 

Once the virus enters your body, it remains inactive in your nerve cells until a trigger activates it. Once the virus has been activated, you will experience symptoms such as blistering around the genital, thigh, groin or buttock area.

Antiviral medications such as aciclovir, valaciclovir and Valtrex (branded version of valaciclovir) can also reduce symptoms and shorten the healing time of sores, while home care – such as wearing loose-fitting clothing and using mild cleansers – can make you more comfortable.

How long does genital herpes last?

As there is no cure for genital herpes, the virus stays in the body even after the signs of the infection have gone away. 

Outbreaks themselves can last for up to two to three weeks, and the initial outbreak, often considered the most severe, could last up to four weeks. After the sores develop, they break open and fluid is released. When the sores scab (crust) over, the healing process is underway. Blisters do not typically leave any scars.  

Subsequent outbreaks tend to become less severe and generally pass within a few days. Antiviral medication helps to speed up the recovery time, shorten the length of an outbreak, as well as helping to ease symptoms.

Genital herpes prevention

There are several ways in which you can reduce your chances of getting genital herpes: 

  • Using a condom when you have sex helps to lower the risk of getting genital herpes, and other STIs. A condom should be used even when you don’t see sores or any other symptoms 
  • You should avoid having sex with anyone if they are having a herpes outbreak, as this is when the virus spreads most easily 
  • Not sharing sex toys is another sensible precaution 


After you have had an initial outbreak, taking prescribed medication for genital herpes can reduce the frequency of flare-ups.

Is genital herpes painful?

While many people with the HSV virus experience no symptoms, when sores do develop, they can be painful. 

Blisters around the area of infection can itch and tingle, and then turn into open sores when they are ulcerated. Some people also experience flu-like symptoms during their first outbreak, such as fever, muscle aches, headache and swollen lymph nodes in the groin.

In general, the first outbreak of genital herpes is the most painful. Some people may feel aching or burning around the genital area, while others can experience discharge from the penis or vagina.

Antiviral medication prescribed for genital herpes, such as aciclovir, valaciclovir and Valtrex, can help to manage the condition and ease symptoms. You may also use over the counter pain medication such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Who should get tested?

If you experience any of the symptoms of herpes, you should get tested. The most accurate genital herpes tests will include taking a swab from an open sore. The reliability of results depends on the quality of the sample. If you do not have any signs or symptoms, it is likely that the test will come back negative.

What can trigger a herpes outbreak?

A herpes outbreak can be triggered by a number of factors. It is unknown what exactly causes an outbreak, and this can vary from person to person. However, the following are thought to trigger a genital herpes outbreak:

  • Weak immune system - The common cold, flu, or any other time where your immune system is weaker than normal may trigger an outbreak
  • Hormone changes - Fluctuating levels of hormones for example during menstruation can trigger an outbreak
  • Vigorous sex - It has been reported that strong friction can irritate the skin and potentially lead to an outbreak
  • Stress - Physical or mental stress has proven to have a strong correlation to causing outbreaks of genital herpes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Excess exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light

Genital herpes treatment

Genital herpes will usually be diagnosed with a physical examination and laboratory tests, which may include a viral culture test, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and blood test. 

Medication for genital herpes is very effective in managing the condition, allowing you to lead a normal life.

The two most common antiviral medicines used to treat genital herpes are aciclovir (also sold under the brand name Zovirax) and valaciclovir (also sold under the name Valtrex). 

These medications can help the healing of sores after an initial outbreak, and reduce the severity and the duration of genital herpes symptoms when outbreaks are recurrent. 

Aciclovir and valaciclovir can also reduce the frequency with which outbreaks recur, and help to minimise the risk of transmitting herpes to other people. In general, medication for genital herpes is well-tolerated with few side effects. 


  • Treatment of first episode – 400mg (1 tablet), three times a day for five days
  • Treatment of recurrent infection – 400mg (1 tablet), three times a day for three to five days
  • Suppressive therapy (for those that experience six or more outbreaks a year) – 400mg (1 tablet), twice daily ongoing 


To find out more about aciclovir, take a look at our extensive resource on this medication:



  • Treatment of first episode - 500mg (1 tablet), twice daily for five days
  • Treatment of recurrent infection – 500mg (1 tablet), twice daily for three to five days
  • Suppressive therapy (for those that experience six or more outbreaks a year) – 500mg (1 tablet) daily ongoing


In the UK, these treatments are considered as the best genital herpes treatments available.

When it comes to self-care, there are a number of things that you can do at home to treat genital herpes: 

  • You might take over the counter pain medication like aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease painful herpes symptoms
  • Your doctor might advise that you soak the area in warm water, although in general you should keep dry for the majority of the time
  • You may find that wearing cotton underwear can be more comfortable than underwear made from synthetic materials, which could cause irritation 
  • If drying yourself with a towel after bathing becomes uncomfortable, a hairdryer on the ‘cool’ setting could be an alternative

Buy herpes treatment online

If you have been diagnosed as having genital herpes or had a positive result from a herpes test kit, you can buy herpes treatment online after completing a short medical questionnaire. 

Our process is 100% confidential from start to finish. As long as our clinicians authorise that it is safe for you to be prescribed with a specific course of treatment, we will post the medication out to you in plain, non-identifiable packaging the very next day.

If you haven’t found an answer to your question here, why not take a look at our genital herpes FAQ article for more information.

What do genital herpes look like?

Genital herpes first present as small red blisters which eventually fill up with liquid, taking on a yellow colour. The blisters then burst open, leaving sores within the genitals and anal region. Blisters can also appear on the thigh and buttock region. The severity of the blisters differs between individuals. Some may encounter multiple blisters, whereas others may have one single sore only. Sometimes the symptoms may be so mild that they go unnoticed. 

You can visit the genital herpes page on the NHS website, where you can see pictures of what the blisters usually look like.

If I have sex with someone who has herpes, will I get it?

It is possible to contract herpes from someone who has the virus, regardless of whether they are experiencing an outbreak or not. Someone who has genital herpes is most contagious when an outbreak is about to begin, during an outbreak, or shortly after one has finished. The chances of contracting or passing on herpes are lower in between outbreaks, but there is still a chance of contracting the virus, even though symptoms may not be present.

Can I use herpes treatment if I am pregnant?

It is possible to be prescribed herpes treatment if you are pregnant. This should be done under the close supervision of your doctor, who can prescribe you with herpes medication if the benefits are thought to outweigh the potential risks.

If I have herpes, will my baby get it?

If you have acquired genital herpes before your pregnancy, there is an extremely low chance that it will be passed onto your child. This is because your body has built up antibodies in order to fight the virus. These antibodies are provisionally given to your baby through the placenta during pregnancy. So, even if there are genital sores around the vagina during birth, the antibodies are a form of protection for the baby. It is important to let your doctor know, so that extra measures can be taken in order to protect the new born. Women who develop herpes later on in their pregnancy however, are at an increased chance of passing the virus onto their child. This is because the immune system has not built up antibodies as a form of protection to fight the virus, meaning that the baby is able to contract herpes. This potentially can be dangerous and potentially life threatening for the child. If you have contracted genital herpes at any point during your pregnancy, you should see your doctor immediately.

How can I avoid getting genital herpes?

  • Practice safe sex by using a condom every time you engage in vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • Cover the genitals with a dam (thin piece of soft plastic or latex) during oral or dry sex
  • Avoid sharing sex toys, or wash them thoroughly before use

Will getting herpes affect my fertility?

Your fertility is not affected by genital herpes, but you should let your doctor know if you are pregnant and have genital herpes. This is because an outbreak at the time of childbirth can potentially be dangerous for the child and you may need to take suppressive therapy in the run up to giving birth.



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