It is normal to be worried after finding out that you have the herpes virus, but know that you are not alone, because millions of people all over the world carry the virus. Although there is no cure, herpes can be treated, and treatment usually involves prescription anti-viral drugs and over the counter medicines and creams.
Herpes Treatments is Used to Reduce:
- the healing time (duration) of the outbreaks
- the pain and severity of the symptoms
- viral shedding and the rate of recurrence
- the risk of transferring the virus to another individual
One type of herpes virus can stay in the body by hiding within nerve cells. It can remain dormant for a long time, and can be reactivated at any time by the factors mentioned below:
- Genital irritation
- Physical or emotional stress
- Reduced immunity
Herpes Anti-Viral Medical Treatment Approved by FDA
There are three antiviral medications that are FDA-approved for the treatment of herpes, especially the genital herpes. They are:
- Acyclovir:this is the oldest antiviral medication for herpes. It has been available since 1982 as an ointment and sold since 1985 in pills form. Acyclovir has been shown to be safe in individuals who have continuously used it on daily basis for as long as 10 years. This medication is designed to control the spread of the herpes infection, and functions by limiting the multiplication rate of the virus.
Acyclovir does not completely remove the virus from the body, but can however be used to reduce the symptoms linked with the infection. The usual average dosage for Acyclovir is 5 daily tablets taken over a minimum of 5 days.
- Famiciclovir: This is an FDA approved antiviral drug that can be used in treating genital herpes. It can be used by individuals who have compromised or normal immune systems, and patients diagnosed with recurrent herpes are required to maintain a dosage of 1000 mg, twice a day for genital herpes or 1500 mg take once for cold sores.
Famiciclovir can be used to suppress recurrent herpes infection, since it uses penciclovir as its active ingredient to stop HSV from replicating.
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex): Valacyclovir is an antiviral drug that can be used to inhibit the spread of the herpes simplex virus around the body. Valcyclovir can also be used to reduce the severity of the symptoms that surfaces during an outbreak. Valacyclovir is a recommended treatment option for women who are infected with the HSV virus, and can also be used with children who are 12 years and above. Valacyclovir, actually uses acyclovir as its active ingredient, and it delivers acyclovir more efficiently so that the body absorbs much of the drug. It gives the advantage of taking the medication fewer times during the day.
There are two kinds of treatment regimens for the herpes infection: episodic therapy and suppressive therapy.
In this approach, a person begins taking medication at the first sign of an outbreak and continues for several days, in order to speed up healing or even prevent an outbreak from fully occurring. All the three antiviral treatments mentioned above have been proven to help shorten the amount of time that a person may experience symptoms of herpes infection.
Episodic therapy offers a useful way to manage outbreaks by splitting the length of an outbreak by a day or two, on average, and the benefits may be greater for those whose outbreaks tend to last longer. However, results may vary from one person to another.
Also, episodic therapy has its best results when treatment begins at the very first sign of outbreak. However, if lesions are already present, therapy may offer little benefit. Furthermore, because the medications differ in their absorption rate and duration of effectiveness, dosage also vary with episodic therapy treatment ranging from one to five pills every day for three to five days during an outbreak.
People with the herpes virus who want to suppress outbreaks can take antiviral medication daily to hold the virus in check so that it is less likely to break out. For individuals who have frequent recurrences like six or more per year, studies have shown that suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by around 75% if you are on suppressive medication. Also, for some other people, taking the suppressive antiviral medicines on a daily basis can prevent outbreaks altogether.
One study found that women on suppressive acyclovir (400 mg, taken twice per day) had a 94% reduction in subclinical shedding while on therapy. Similar study has also been done with famciclovir and valacyclovir, with similar reductions seen in both men and women.
Suppressive therapy has been studied in thousands of patients and it appears to be both safe and effective, and because the medications differ in their absorption rate and duration of effectiveness, dosages also vary with suppressive therapy treatment, ranging from one to two pills every day.
Non-Prescriptive Treatment for Herpes
The following are some non-prescription treatments that can be used to manage outbreaks.
- For individuals who are experiencing recurrent outbreaks, non-prescription medicine such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be taken orally to help fight the symptoms of pain and fever and offer temporary relief.
- Topical creams such as Herp-B-Gone or Abreva have been clinically proven to be equally effective in the treatment of a herpes outbreak when applied directly on the lesions. These fast acting anti-viral gels dries out the lesions and provide immediate relief from the pain, itching and discomfort.
- Dietary supplements that contain L-lysine, zinc, lactobacillus acidophilus, vitamins C and E have also been identified to aid the treatment of herpes.
Other ways that can be employed to manage the pain or discomfort during a herpes outbreak include:
- Drinking plenty of water to hydrate the body and flush out the toxins.
- Avoiding much exposure to sunlight, ultra-violet light and heat.
- Cleaning the lesions with a salt solution and keeping the sores dry.
- Wearing loose fitting clothes and underwear to avoid snugging on the infected areas.
- Getting plenty of sleep and rest and
- Employing stress management skills.
Preventing the Spread of Herpes
Even when you do not have visible sores, you can still pass the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
- Let any sexual partner know that you have herpes before engaging in the sexual act, let them decide what to do.
- Use condoms, and avoid sex during symptomatic outbreaks.
- Do not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex when there are sores on or near the genitals, anus, or mouth.
- Do not kiss or have oral sex when you have a sore on the lips or inside the mouth.
- Do not share your towels, toothbrush, cups or lipstick during outbreak. Ensure that dishes and utensils are washed well with detergent before others use them.
- Maintain a regular washing of hands well with soap and water.
- Consider the use of daily suppressive anti-viral medicine to limit viral outbreaks and reduce the risk of passing the virus to your partner.
- If you both have the herpes virus, there is no risk of transmission.
A recent study at Montana State University by a virologist named Bill Halford showed that mice which were vaccinated with a genetically modified strain of the virus showed no sign of the disease after 30 days. This treatment test, if successful would lead to a human vaccine that can effectively make human being to be immune to the herpes simplex virus.
Antiviral medication is not recommended for a person who has suffers from HIV or a weak immune system. Also, recent recipients of a transplant (bone marrow or kidney) should consult their doctor before commencing any medication.
Herpes is a viral and transmittable disease and once infected, cannot be cured. It remains that while there are no permanent cures available for herpes yet, outbreaks of the infection can be effectively managed using the right treatment.
People often ask about an amino acid by the name of lysine (L-lysine), because there are claims that it helps control herpes outbreaks. While some studies have suggested that lysine supplements can reduce the frequency of recurrences or healing time, other trials have not been able to replicate those results.
However, Lysine can be found with other nutrients and supplements at local grocery or drug store, but make sure you take the recommended dosage and always check with their health care provider first before starting any new medication or supplement.
Over dosage of lysine may throw other amino acids out of balance and affect the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.