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Genital Herpes Treatments

Genital Herpes Treatment Considerations

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Updated July 03, 2014

There are medications available to treat genital herpes infections and prevent recurrent infections. However, none of the drugs get rid of the virus. Herpes cannot be "cured." The decision to use one treatment over another for genital herpes depends on many factors that must be discussed with your health-care provider.

Initial or Recurrent Genital Herpes Outbreaks

One of the major factors determining treatment is whether a person has had a genital herpes outbreak in the past. The first episode of genital herpes is usually the worst and includes general symptoms that make a person feel unwell. Recurrent episodes of genital herpes are generally not as painful and do not last as long.

Frequency of Genital Herpes Outbreaks

People who have more than 6 outbreaks per year should discuss suppressive therapy with their health-care provider. With suppressive therapy, a person takes medication every day to reduce the number of outbreaks. Over time, the frequency of outbreaks decreases in many people; therefore, people on suppressive therapy should periodically discuss the risks and benefits of stopping daily medication with their health care provider.

If a Person Is Sexually Active

A discordant couple (one partner with herpes and the other does not) requires special considreration. Suppressive therapy to prevent transmission to a known negative partner may be recommended. Studies have shown that the risk of transmitting to a herpes-negative partner is lower if the herpes-positive person is on therapy.

Genital Herpes and a Weakened Immune System

People with weakened immune systems because of HIV/AIDS, leukemia, transplantation, and long-term corticosteroid use are at risk for more severe herpes infections. The herpes simplex virus in these people may be resistant to older antiviral treatments or more difficult to treat; therefore, other medications than the ones listed here or medications at higher doses may be required.

Genital Herpes and Pregnancy

Women who have a herpes outbreak in the third trimester or at delivery are at greater risk of transmitting the herpes simplex virus to their babies. Certain antiviral drugs are considered safe to use in pregnancy while the safety of others has not been determined. Any woman who is pregnant should report to her health-care provider current or past symptoms that she feels may be herpes.

Genital Herpes Medications

The specific medications and their doses are listed here.

Sources:

CDC. "Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2006." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 55(2006): 16-20.

Habif, Thomas. "Warts, Herpes Simplex, and Other Viral Infections" Clinical Dermatology, 4th Edition. Ed. Thomas Habif, MD. New York: Mosby, 2004. 381-388.

Yeung-Yue, Kimberly. "Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2." Dermatologic Clinics 20(2002): 1-21.

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