Genital herpes infection cannot be cured.The antiviral medications prescribed for a person with genital herpes may:
- shorten the duration of symptomsduring an initial outbreak (the sores heal sooner) .
- decrease the severity and duration of symptoms in cases with recurrent outbreaks.
- decrease the frequency of recurrent outbreaks.
- reduce the risk of transmission of infection to another person.
The commonly prescribed antiviral medications for genital herpes include:
These medications are usually administered orally, but people with severe symptoms or complications may be given the antiviral medication intravenously. As topical application of these medications provides little benefit, doctors don't usually recommend them.
Treatments for Genital Herpes
- Initial treatment: For people diagnosed with genital herpes for the first time the doctor will usually prescribe a brief course (seven to 10 days) of antiviral medications. This may help to decrease the severity and shorten the duration of symptoms. You may be prescribed drugs for a longer duration if your sores don't heal in that time. After the initial treatment, your doctor may recommend intermittent treatment orsuppressive treatment---- as considered best for you.
- Intermittent treatment: In this type of treatment your doctor will stop antiviral medications after the initial symptoms subside and recommend antiviral drug therapy in case you have another flare-up. People on intermittent treatment are advised to take the pills for two to five days as soon as the sores start or if they feel an outbreak is going to occur. The antiviral drug therapy decreases the severity and duration of symptoms in recurrent outbreaks
- Suppressive treatment: If you have recurrent outbreaks your doctor may recommend taking an antiviral drug every day (that is suppressive treatment). Suppressive treatment can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70% to 80% in people with recurrent outbreaks and some people may have no outbreaks at all. Your doctor will recommend suppressive treatment based on the frequency and severity of outbreaks (like if the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your life).
Follow-up Care for Genital Herpes
The antiviral drugs used for genital herpes are effective and safe for long term use. Acyclovir is the oldest and most commonly used drug with proven safety in people taking suppressive therapy for several years. If you are on suppressive therapy consult your doctor at least once a year to assess your symptoms, outbreaks and decide if you should continue the treatment.
General measures for people with Genital Herpes: Some measures which may help to ease the symptoms include;
- Analgesics such as paracetamol may relieve or reduce pain.
- If passing urine is painful then passing urine while sitting in a warm bath or with water flowing over the area can ease pain.
- Topical application of anesthetic ointment such as lidocaine 5% may relieve itching or pain, and even ease pain during passing urine.
- Cold compresses (applying ice wrapped in a towel) over the sores for 5-10 minutes may reduce pain and soreness. Ice should not be applied directly on to skin as it may cause an 'ice burn'.
- Drink plenty of fluids as it makes the urine more dilute and may make passing urine less painful.
- Gentle cleaning of sores with cotton wool and plain or salt water is best.
- When you resume sexual activity after an outbreak clears use of a lubricant may help. Some people can have recurrence of symptoms due to the friction of having sex.