Genital Herpes

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Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common and highly contagious infection usually spread through sex. This infection is usually caused by the herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) or the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), the virus usually responsible for cold sores. Genital herpes treatment includes medicines to help sores heal faster and prevent outbreaks.

Symptoms & Types

What are the symptoms of genital herpes? Can you get herpes from someone who doesn’t show signs of the disease?  What problems can herpes cause? Find answers here.

Symptoms

Learn the full range, from mild to severe.

Types

Learn the difference between the two types of herpes simplex virus.

Most people are surprised to find out that two types of herpes viruses — the one that causes cold sores and the one that causes chickenpox — can cause a condition called herpetic eye disease.

Symptoms of herpes, genital warts, the clap, Chlamydia, scabies, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs are presented with pictures by WebMD’s medical editors.

Complications

Why pregnant women should be extra careful to avoid getting herpes.

Treatment Options for Genital Herpes

Treatment with antiviral drugs can help people who are bothered bygenital herpes outbreaks stay symptom-free longer. These drugs can also reduce the severity and duration of symptoms when they do flare up. Drug therapy is not a cure, but it can make living with the condition easier.

There are three major drugs commonly used to treat genital herpes symptoms: acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir(Valtrex). These are all taken in pill form. Severe cases may be treated with the intravenous (IV) drug acyclovir.

Formulas applied to the surface of the skin provide little benefit, and doctors don’t usually recommend them.

When Treatments for Genital Herpes Are Given

  • Initial treatment. If you have symptoms such as sores when you’re first diagnosed with genital herpes, your doctor will usually give you a brief course (seven to 10 days) of antiviral therapy to relieve them or prevent them from getting worse. Your doctor may keep you on the drugs longer if the sores don’t heal in that time.

After the first treatment, work with your doctor to come up with the best way to take antiviral therapies. There are two options:

  • Intermittent treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug for you to keep on hand in case you have another flare-up; this is called intermittent therapy. You can take the pills for two to five days as soon as you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on. Sores will heal and disappear on their own, but taking the drugs can make the symptoms less severe and make them go away faster.
  • Suppressive treatment. If you have outbreaks often, you may want to consider taking an antiviral drug every day. Doctors call this suppressive therapy. For someone who has more than six outbreaks a year, suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70% to 80%. Many people who take the antiviral drugs daily have no outbreaks at all.

There is no set number of outbreaks per year that doctors use to decide when someone should start suppressive therapy. Rather, more important factors are how often the outbreaks happen and if they are severe enough to interfere with your life.

Treatment Options for Genital Herpes

When Treatments for Genital Herpes Are Given continued…

Taking daily suppressive therapy may also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to a sexpartner. Antiviral drugs reduce viral shedding, when the virus makes new copies of itself on the skin’s surface.

A recent study of people taking daily doses of valacyclovir shows the drug may help protect sex partners from being infected, although you should still use a latex condom. Half the partners of people taking daily valacyclovir became infected with the virus, and half did not. Moreover, 75% of the partners did not show any symptoms of genital herpes, even if they had acquired the virus.

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