What is the best genital herpes treatment?

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The best genital herpes treatments are aciclovir and valaciclovir. Studies show that they help to reduce viral transmission by 75 - 90%. They can both be taken during an outbreak to help reduce the severity of a flare up. Alternatively, they can be taken daily to reduce the chances of getting an outbreak.


What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It is caused by engaging in sexual activity with a person who is infected with the herpes virus. Herpes cannot be cured, but symptoms can be managed with antivirals such as aciclovir and valaciclovir. HSV is the same virus which causes both cold sores and herpes.

The herpes virus lives in the nervous system around the hip and pelvis region, predominantly affecting the genital area. The virus lays dormant until it is activated, which is when it will cause symptoms.

Whilst herpes will not go away forever, symptoms such as blisters will go away by themselves once they heal. Herpes treatment can help symptoms to go away faster and reduce the severity of an outbreak. You can also take herpes treatment to reduces the chances of having an outbreak.

Herpes treatment is also effective in reducing the risk of passing the virus on to sexual partners.


Genital herpes symptoms

The first sign of a herpes outbreak is usually tingling, burning, or itching around the region where sores will appear. Sores around the genital region are the most common sign and symptoms of herpes. Herpes sores look like small blisters, which are similar in size to pimples. They usually appear in small clusters around the vagina or penis, buttocks, thigh, or groin areas. The blisters develop and fill with fluid, before they break open and eventually form a yellow crust as they heal. Other genital herpes symptoms include pain when urinating and an unusual vaginal discharge.

Symptoms such as herpes blisters or sores can be triggered by stress, low immunity, exposure to sunlight and tiredness. However, the exact cause of herpes outbreaks is not known, and outbreaks can happen randomly.

The only way to know if you have genital herpes is to take a herpes test. For the most accurate results, you should take a swab sample from an open sore.


Catching genital herpes

You can catch herpes through sexual contact with someone who is infected with the virus. This is how herpes starts. Herpes is most commonly transmitted through skin to skin contact with an infected person who is experiencing an outbreak. However, it is possible to catch herpes by having sex with someone who is infected, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. Using protection such as condoms can reduce the chances of catching herpes and help to prevent the spread of the virus. Taking herpes treatment can also reduce the viral shedding and suppress outbreaks, lowering the chances of passing the virus on. If you are recovering from an outbreak, you should wait at least seven days after the blisters heal before having sex again.


Genital Herpes Treatment

Herpes is treated with antiviral medication such as aciclovir or valaciclovir (Valtrex). Treatment works by stopping the virus from replicating. As herpes cannot be cured, no treatment will kill the herpes virus. Herpes outbreaks usually last around 1-2 weeks, and antiviral medication can only help to shorten the length and reduce the severity an outbreak. Herpes is self-limiting, which means that symptoms will clear up and go away by itself without treatment. If you are experiencing frequent outbreaks, you can take herpes treatment daily to lower the chances of having a flare up. This is normal practice for those experiencing more than 6 outbreaks a year.

Herpes treatment including acicvlovir and valaciclovir may be used in pregnancy, but only if the benefits are thought to outweigh the risks involved. You should speak to your doctor if you wish to use herpes treatment and you are pregnant.


Herpes treatment with aciclovir

Aciclovir is an antiviral medication which is used to treat genital herpes. It is sometimes referred to as acyclovir. It works by stopping the herpes virus from replicating, reducing the severity of the infection. This helps to prevent the virus from spreading, reducing the seriousness of symptoms. It also helps to speed up the healing process. It usually takes around 2-3 days for aciclovir to start working. To treat an outbreak, you should take one 400mg tablet three times a day. Alternatively, you can take one 200mg tablet five times a day.

You can also take aciclovir daily to help reduce the chances of getting a flare up. This is known as suppression therapy. The dose for suppression therapy is to take one 400mg tablet two times a day

Side effects do not affect everyone, but may include stomach pain, dizziness, fatigue, headache, and skin reactions. It may be possible to take aciclovir if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but you should check this with your doctor. They will determine whether the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks.


Herpes treatment with valaciclovir (Valtrex)

Valaciclovir is an antiviral medication, commonly referred to as valacyclovir. It is also available as a branded version called Valtrex. Valaciclovir works by stopping the herpes virus from multiplying and spreading, helping the body’s immune system to fight the infection. This reduces the severity of symptoms and helps to speed up the healing process. It takes around 2-3 days for valaciclovir to start working. To treat an outbreak, you should take one 500mg tablet two times a day.

You can also take valaciclovir to lower the chances of having an outbreak. This is useful for those who get more than 6 outbreaks a year and is referred to as suppression therapy. The dose for suppression therapy is one tablet daily. Although it is safe to take valaciclovir daily, you should review treatment with your doctor at regular intervals.

Side effects include stomach upset, dizziness and skin reactions, although not everyone gets them. Valaciclovir may be taken if you are pregnant or breastfeeding under advice of a doctor. You may need monitoring and valaciclovir will usually only be prescribed if the benefits are thought to outweigh the risks.


So, what is the best herpes treatment?

Valaciclovir and aciclovir have both been proven to reduce the length and severity of herpes outbreaks. Studies show that both treatments are as effective as each other. Aciclovir is a more cost-effective option, however, valaciclovir offers a more convenient dosing regime. Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference, and what works best for you. Before seeking treatment, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist for medical advice.

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.