Treatments and medications
Genital herpes is not a curable condition. (7) Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help heal sores (especially during an initial outbreak), reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, reduce the frequency of recurrence, as well as minimise the risk of transmitting the virus to another person.
Medications may only be recommended when you experience symptoms of an outbreak. Certain medications may also be prescribed to be taken daily, even when there are no visible physical signs of an infection outbreak (or recurrence).
Medications will help to make living with the condition easier. Antiviral medications help to reduce viral shedding (when a virus makes new copies of itself on the surface of the skin).
Most medications prescribed are in pill form for between 7 and 10 days. (8) If your sores do not heal in that time, you doctor may extend your course of medications, keeping you on the prescription for a longer period (until sores begin to heal).
As genital herpes can flare-up at any stage, intermittent treatment may be recommended by your doctor. In this instance an antiviral medication will be prescribed to keep on hand when a recurrence happens. This is usually a shorter course of medication (2 to 5 days) when sores develop or you feel an outbreak coming on. The medication will alleviate the discomforts and pain of physical symptoms and clear them up faster.
There are instances where your doctor may suggest a suppressive treatment plan (antiviral medications taken daily). This may be recommended if you experience frequent outbreaks (more than 6 in a year). Suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by between 70% and 80%. If you are being treated with a suppressive plan, it is highly recommended to see your doctor at least once a year (or as needed if taking pills daily is inconvenient, don’t appear to be working for you or begin to experience fewer recurrences with time).
As with any drug, there are some side effects experienced by some people, when taking prescribed medication. Side effects are generally mild and most medical professionals will agree that they are generally safe to be used in the long term.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 2017. Genital Herpes Treatment and Care: https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/treatment.htm [Accessed 29.08.2018]
8. Human Herpesviruses: Biology, Therapy, and Immunoprophylaxis. 2007. Chapter 64: Antiviral therapy of HSV-1 and -2: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK47444/ [Accessed 29.08.2018]