Are Antiviral Medications Safe
Antiviral medications are considered to be very safe. They are nearly always well tolerated because the active ingredients only have an effect in cells that have been infected by the virus.
People who have kidney failure may need to take a lower dose because the medication is removed from the body through the kidneys.
Should I Tell My Sexual Partner
Yes, you need to let your sexual partners know so they get tested. If you do not feel comfortable contacting them yourself, your sexual health clinic can contact them for you. They can send them a contact slip suggesting that they might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection and recommending that they go for a check-up. Your name will not be on the slip, although sometimes it states which infection they might have picked up.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
The best way to find out if you have genital herpes is to have a sexual health check-up. This may involve a physical examination and a swab from the affected area to test for HSV. To confirm genital herpes the lab needs to find herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 on a swab.
Diagnosis is easier if early ulcers or blisters are present.
Because it is possible to have another STI at the same time, a full sexual health check-up should be done.
Sexual contacts should be informed of the diagnosis and it may be advisable for them to have a sexual health check-up.
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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
What Are The Treatment Options For Genital Herpes
Treatment with antiviral medication is a good idea the very first time people have an outbreak of genital herpes. Later outbreaks are often milder, and then medication isnt always needed. Preventive treatment may be considered if the outbreaks are frequent.
Genital herpes may clear up on its own. But the symptoms are often more severe the first time you have an outbreak. Most people then use antiviral medication to relieve the symptoms and prevent complications. These medications include aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir.
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Education Is An Integral Part Of Herpes Treatment
If you have genital herpes, its important for you to get educated about herpes and have the opportunity to ask questions in a supportive environment.
Becoming informed will help you learn to cope with the illness. It will also help you prevent sexual transmission of the illness, or transmission to an infant during a pregnancy.
Herpes has a tremendous psychosocial overlay. But knowledge about it and understanding about how well it can be managed can reduce that, says Handsfield.
Your doctor may be able to provide you with all the information you need, or you may choose to seek counseling from a mental health professional or at a clinic that specializes in sexual health, such as Planned Parenthood.
If you have a regular sexual partner, that person should also have the chance to learn about herpes and ask any questions they may have about it.
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most people infected with genital herpes have no symptoms, but some people can experience:
- stinging or tingling in the genital area
- small blisters on the genital area that develop into small painful red sores
- sores that look like a rash or cracked skin on the genitals
- difficulty passing urine
The first episode of infection can also have flu-like symptoms such as:
- swollen glands
After the first episode, the virus remains dormant in your body for the rest of your life, which means you can experience recurrent episodes of sores and blisters.
Recurrent episodes are usually milder, shorter and less frequent over time. They are more likely to occur when your immune system is weak, due to illness, tiredness or stress.
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Management Of Sex Partners
The sex partners of persons who have symptomatic genital herpes can benefit from evaluation and counseling. Symptomatic sex partners should be evaluated and treated in the same manner as patients who have symptomatic genital herpes. Asymptomatic sex partners of patients who have symptomatic genital herpes should be asked about a history of genital symptoms and offered type-specific serologic testing for HSV-2. For partners without genital herpes, no data are available on which to base a recommendation for PEP or PrEP with antiviral medications or that they would prevent acquisition, and this should not be offered to patients as a prevention strategy.
If You Were Infected During Oral Sex
If you are someone who acquired genital herpes during oral sex, its a good idea to talk to your partner about what happened. Think about educating them, rather than engaging in blame.
Its unlikely that they were trying to intentionally transmit an STI. Unfortunately, a lot of people with cold sores are unaware of the risk of transmitting herpes during oral sex.
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How Does Suppressive Treatment Work
Some people may have regular, more serious outbreaks of genital herpes, more than six times a year. In this case, you could get a low-dose antiviral treatment, which you would take daily for about 6 or 12 months. This is known as suppressive therapy and it helps to either stop the outbreaks completely or make symptoms less serious.
If you use this treatment, you would be asked to stop afterwards to see if your outbreaks happen less often and are less serious. If the outbreaks have not improved, you may be offered another long-term, daily dose of antiviral medication.
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A Cure For Herpes There Is Progress To Report
It takes a persistent scientist to stop a persistent virus.
A decade ago, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center virologist Dr. Keith Jerome began exploring the idea that lifelong infections with herpes viruses might be cured by using the DNA-cutting tools of gene therapy.
Initial research showed these techniques could knock out small quantities of latent virus, and the work of improving the results fell to JeromeÃ¢s senior staff scientist, Dr. Martine Aubert. Five years ago, the team reported they had damaged the genes of 2%-4% of herpes virus in infected mice. AubertÃ¢s work was an important proof of principle, but far short of a cure.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
On Aug. 18, the team led by Jerome and Aubert published a paper in Nature Communications showing that, through a series of incremental improvements on their original method, they had destroyed up to 95% of herpes virus lurking in certain nerve clusters of mice.
Ã¢This is the first time that anybody has been able to go in and actually eliminate most of herpes in a body,Ã¢ said Jerome, who is also spearheading research at Fred Hutch and the University of Washington on COVID-19. Ã¢It is a completely different approach to herpes therapy than anybodyÃ¢s ever had before.Ã¢
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Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
One Option For Ongoing Therapy: Taking Drugs Regularly
Some people with genital herpes choose to take antiviral medication daily to reduce the number of symptom outbreaks they have. In some cases, daily therapy prevents outbreaks completely.
Numerous studies over the years have demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of all three of the approved antivirals used to treat genital herpes.
Studies have also shown that daily antiviral therapy reduces the rate of transmission from an HSV-2 infected person to an uninfected partner of the opposite sex.
Daily therapy also lowers the odds of infecting other people if you have multiple sex partners or if you are a man who has sex with men.
The drugs work both for people who have had herpes symptoms and for those whose blood tests show they have an HSV-2 infection but who have never had symptoms.
Some people choose to take antiviral drugs only as needed, for outbreaks that occur after the first one. For this to work, you need to start taking the medicine within one day of sores cropping up or during the time period that comes before some outbreaks.
During the prodrome, you may feel
- Burning in the area where the virus first entered your body
- Itching or tingling in that area
- Pain in your back, buttocks, thighs, or knees
Your doctor will probably give you a prescription you can fill and keep handy for timely use, and tell you to start taking the drugs just as soon as symptoms begin.
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Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
Treatment For Oral Herpes
The antiviral medications available in pill form have been specifically developed for the treatment of genital herpes. However, it is not uncommon for healthcare providers to prescribe the antiviral drugs to those who have frequent or severe outbreaks of oral herpes.
A recent study found valacyclovir to be effective for treating oral herpes in a one-day treatment of 2 grams taken at the first sign of a cold sore, and then again about 12 hours later.
There are two topical antiviral medications prescribed for the treatment of oral HSV symptoms: acyclovir ointment and penciclovir cream. Both work to speed up the healing process and reduce the viral activity. These topical drugs are put directly on the lesions themselves, but can also be used at the onset of prodrome.
Other topical treatments for oral herpes are available over-the-counter , but are not antiviral compounds like acyclovir and penciclovir. Some also contain ingredients that numb the area and induce temporary relief from the discomfort of an outbreak. Unfortunately, some OTC treatments may actually delay the healing time of symptoms because they can further irritate the area with repeated applications. There is only one OTC FDA-approved cream, called Abreva®, which has been clinically proven to help speed the healing process.
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Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
Theres no cure for the herpes virus yet. A herpes vaccine doesnt currently exist, as the herpes virus has more complicated DNA than most infections, creating challenges for researchers.
However, medication can help with symptoms, like sores, and outbreaks. Medication also lowers the risk of transmission to others. You can take most medications for herpes orally, though you may also apply some as a cream or receive them by injection.
Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
- low immunity
- no apparent reason noted.
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What Is Oral Herpes
Oral herpes is primarily caused by HSV-1, although it is also possible to have an HSV-2 infection around the mouth.
A person with an oral herpes outbreak may first feel itching, burning, or tingling around the mouth, lips, or tongue. Later, cold sores or small blisters may develop in these areas or anywhere on the skin.
Roughly four to six days after these cold sores start leaking, they start healing by forming a crust. Outbreaks of oral herpes can last for two to three weeks, which can be shorter than the two to six weeks of a genital herpes outbreak.
People who develop symptoms of herpes may first experience tingling, itching, or burning, then notice sores or blisters forming around the mouth or genitals.
Symptoms tend to develop 220 days after exposure to the virus.
Complementary And Alternative Medicine
Some people use natural therapies to treat herpes, either on their own or to support standard medical care. The research supporting their use is generally weak, with little evidence that they can reduce either the severity or duration of an outbreak. Even so, many people swear by their effectiveness and consider them a vital part of managing herpes outbreaks.
Complementary and alternative therapies sometimes used to treat herpes include:
- Propolis: This is a sticky substance produced by bees that may help speed the healing of genital herpes. A 2017 study found that people who used propolis ointment experienced better healing by the 10th day of treatment compared to those who used a sham ointment.
- Algae extract: Lab studies suggest that algae extract can inhibit the growth of HSV-2 in test tubes. Whether it can do so in humans has yet to be proven.
- Acupuncture: A 2011 study concluded that acupuncture was mildly effective in reducing pain caused by the herpes zoster virus , the type of herpes virus that causes shingles. While this suggests that acupuncture may be useful in easing genital herpes pain, this has yet to be proven.
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Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes may not be aware they have the infection, because they may not have any symptoms.
The first episode of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress. Symptoms of the first episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- small cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash
- some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and hence may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine.
Symptoms Of Herpes Simplex Virus Type
Oral Herpes infection is mostly asymptomatic symptoms of oral herpes include blisters or open sores/cold sores in or around the mouth. Cold sores start as small sores around the lips which grows into blisters after a few days. After bleeding, a crust forms, and it generally heals in one to two weeks.
Initially, infected patients will start to feel a tingling or burning sensation around their mouth, then the blisters and or open sores occur periodically thereafter. HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes that can be asymptomatic. However, the symptoms usually include blisters around the genital area.
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How Effective Are Medications For Herpes
Prescription antiviral medications have proven effectiveness in managing HSV symptoms.
A 2017 study comparing the antiviral medications acyclovir, famciclovir, penciclovir and valacyclovir to treat herpes simplex labialis found all antiviral medications were effective to shorten healing time for lesions and reducing pain. The comparison study found valacyclovir had the fastest healing time and pain reduction.
What Can I Do If I Have Herpes Simplex 2
Many people who find out they have herpes feel depressed knowing they’ll always have the virus and can give it to others. But you arent alone. Herpes is one of the most common STIs, both in the U.S. and worldwide. If you have herpes, you should:
- Learn all you can about it. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself.
- Talk about your illness with your doctor.
If you have herpes, you can still:
- Have sex if you use a condom or dental dam , and you tell your partner about your illness. Some couples, who have sexual relations only with each other, may choose not to use condoms even though one partner has herpes. Because each situation is different, you should ask your doctor if this is the right choice for you in your relationship.
- Have children. People with herpes can still give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, discuss your illness with your healthcare provider.
If you have herpes, you should also get checked for HIV and other STIs .
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