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Genital Herpes information may be found here...

For herpes, there is no quick fix, nor is there a cure. Medications called antiviral drugs can, however, attack the virus and give those afflicted with this disease some relief, helping to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. 

Many herpes sufferers take small doses of antiviral medications daily to prevent symptoms. Plus, these individuals can take the drugs in larger doses when they do experience symptoms. Research shows that daily use of antiviral therapy dramatically lessens the rate of asymptomatic viral shedding, as well as reduces outbreak frequency. 

Controlling outbreaks and minimizing discomfort are two goals of antiviral agent use. The severity of a first episode of genital herpes can be dramatically minimized by the use of an initial 10-day course of medication that helps sores to heal faster, reduces swollen glands, and curbs viral shedding.

Recommended for those who have severe or prolonged recurrences and prodromes is episodic therapy, taking medication at the first warning sign of an outbreak; this serves to shorten duration of symptoms and speed sore healing. 

The patient who takes the drug before lesions appear makes more significant gains, and, in some cases, early preventive medication forestalls formation of lesions altogether.

A third kind of treatment regimen is suppressive therapy, intended to reduce the likelihood of recurrences or to extinguish them. The patient takes a small dose of antiviral medication daily for long periods. Typically, those on suppressive therapy dramatically reduce their symptom recurrence, and in about one-fourth, there are no recurrences at all. 

Often, the physician treating the herpes sufferer stops suppressive therapy once a year to assess the need for the medication. Recent research suggests yet another advantage of suppressive therapy—a 95 percent reduction in days per year of viral shedding and risk of transmission.

It has not been shown, however, that transmission can be completely prevented by use
of suppressive therapy.

The most commonly used medications for herpes are acyclovir (Zovirax) and valacyclovir (Valtrex), which disrupt the replication process of the virus and thus its spread. A patient who takes either drug can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms during a first episode and speed healing during recurrences and prodrome (when there are warning signs and symptoms). 

They work especially well when initiated within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. Many experts think that this therapy also may reduce the risk of transmission to sexual partners.

Acyclovir is taken at different doses either three or five times a day for a first episode and usually 400
mg is taken three times a day for treatment of recurrences. This drug is used worldwide and is only rarely associated with any serious adverse effects. 

The Acyclovir in Pregnancy Registry has shown no rise in birth defects or other problems in more than 10 years. Similar safety is reported in the newer entries on the market—valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir). 

Valtrex has acyclovir as its active ingredient but has the advantage of being better absorbed by a person’s body. For episodic therapy, the dosage is only twice daily for three days. For chronic suppression, Valtrex is taken once daily. Famciclovir (Famvir) lasts longer in the body than acyclovir, and the herpes patient takes only twice-daily doses.



Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2, because it primarily affects the genital area, is referred to as genital herpes and should be differentiated from the very common HSV type 1, associated with fever blisters on the mouth or face (oral herpes). However, both types of HSV can cause genital herpes. HSV-1 usually causes lip sores (fever blisters, cold sores), but it can cause genital infections, too.

HSV-2 causes genital sores most of the time, but it also can infect the mouth. It is important to note, in the context of genital herpes, that the immune system cannot completely rid the body of herpes. Always, a small
colony of the virus lives on, evading the immune system by traveling nerve pathways and hiding
in nerve roots.

A latent phase, during which it hides and causes no problems or symptoms, may last weeks or years, but it can be reactivated at any time. Certain triggers cause the virus to reproduce and set out on the nerve pathways once again, reaching the skin in large enough quantities to be contracted by a sex partner.

When it is active, however, herpes does not always manifest itself in visible signs, and therein lies one of the
largest problems. Genital herpes is extremely common in the United States, affecting about 50 million people 12 and older—or one in five of the total adolescent and adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More women (one in four) contract HSV-2; in men, the frequency is one in five, probably attributable to the fact that it is easier for a male to transmit the disease to a female than vice versa. More blacks than whites have herpes. The group in which herpes is proliferating most quickly is young white teens; in those who are age 12 to 19, HSV-2 was five times more prevalent at the start of the new millennium than it was two decades earlier.

About 89 percent of those with genital herpes are unaware of their disease because they have no symptoms—ever—or do not recognize the symptoms. One of the most startling facts about genital herpes is that most people who are HSV-2-infected have never actually received a diagnosis.

Lacking any awareness that they have genital herpes, these individuals often spread it unknowingly. This obviously poses an enormous health risk for those who are sexually active and underscores the importance of STD testing before initiation of a sexual relationship with a partner.

This disease has major health consequences because the virus stays in the body in certain nerve cells, periodically causing lifelong symptoms in some but not all individuals. Stress, illness, poor nutrition, excessive activity, and sunlight have all been known to trigger bouts of herpes in herpes sufferers, even when the disease has lain dormant for a long time.

These triggers set the virus in motion, causing it to travel along nerve pathways to the site of outbreak.

Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. Medical experts report that approximately four of five people do not know they have it; therefore, it is important

to be well informed about the ways in which this disease is transmitted. Of this recurrent, incurable disease’s two serotypes—HSV-1 and HSV-2— the latter causes most cases of genital herpes.


The primary episode of genital herpes varies greatly, and as a result, many of those infected are unaware of the infection. Those who do have pronounced symptoms usually have lesions within two weeks of transmission. Flulike symptoms, including fever and swollen glands, are not unusual.

First episodes last two to three weeks. Other early symptoms are sensations of itching or burning; pain in the legs, genital area, or buttocks; vaginal discharge; and abdominal region pressure. The site of the infection hosts the first sores (lesions), but these also can occur inside the vagina and on the cervix in women or in the urinary passage of either sex.

Small red bumps morph into blisters, finally turning into painful open sores. They crust over a period of a few days and then heal. Some people with genital herpes experience headache, fever, muscle aches, painful urination, vaginal discharge, and swollen glands in the groin.

The primary episode of genital herpes is usually the worst and is often followed by four to five
more symptomatic periods the first year. However, many who have HSV-2 experience no symptoms,
and in some people, the symptoms are mild, but this disease can also cause painful genital ulcers
that recur frequently.

What sometimes makes herpes hard to detect is that it manifests itself in different forms. Some are easily missed; others are overt and dramatic. Obvious signs are painful blisterlike sores, which eventually crust over in a scab before they heal.

Herpes causes ulcers, sores, and crusted lesions in various places: anus, buttocks, upper thigh,
vagina, labia, scrotum, and penis. It also can infect the urethra and cause burning. Subtle signs of genital herpes are skin redness, tiny pimplelike sores, small skin slits, and irritation around the anus that is sometimes confused with hemorrhoids.

Herpes symptoms in some women resemble yeast infection. Small sores in the urethra can cause painful urination. Aching or itching during the menstrual period is another symptom. Some women mistakenly think they are having a skin irritation caused by sexual activity when it is actually caused by herpes. Men who contract herpes may initially believe that they have acne, irritation caused by sexual activity, or jock itch.

See Also

Cure for Genital Herpes

Medical Guidebook