People with herpes who have several outbreaks per year or who have severe outbreaks of the illness should consider a daily suppressive treatment to reduce their number of outbreaks and to mitigate the severity of these outbreaks. Herpes is an illness that affects millions of Americans. It comes in two varieties, HSV-2 and the less severe HSV-1. This sexual transmitted disease is incurable, but treatments can help mitigate its severity and help prevent the infected person from passing the illness on to his or her sexual partners.
According to experts, the use of suppressive therapy to treat herpes can reduce the number of outbreaks by up to 80 percent. For people suffering from frequent or severe outbreaks of herpes, this news is extremely heartening.
There’s no magic number of outbreaks per year that health care providers use to determine when a patient should use suppressive therapy. The criteria for suppressive therapy generally entail how often the outbreaks occur and what impact they have in the patient’s ability to enjoy his or her life.
Here are some common antiviral drugs used in suppressive therapy for herpes:
Aciclovir is similar to valaciclovir. Like valaciclovir, aciclovir reduces the frequency of outbreaks and can reduce the window of time in which the patient is infectious to others. When used as a suppressive treatment, aciclovir is taken two-four times daily. Like valaciclovir, aciclovir can cause some mild side effects including nausea and diarrhea.
Aciclovir is currently used by about 30 million people worldwide, and has a good track record of safety. It was the first antiviral drug approved for the treatment of herpes, gaining approval in the 1980s. It’s also the cheapest and most readily available. Studies researching its effectiveness in reducing the chance of people infected with herpes catching HIV have had mixed to negative results.
Valaciclovir, commonly know as Valtrex, is an antiviral drug used in various treatments for herpes. When used as an episodic treatment, this drug helps sores heal faster and reduces the time period in which symptoms are painful. Also, it can help cut the time window in which the disease can be transmitted to a patient’s sexual partner. Episodic treatment is when you only treat the symptoms when they occur. Suppressive therapy is when you take steps to prevent occurrences.
When used as a suppressive treatment, valaciclovir is taken once or twice daily. Taking the drug can help reduce herpes outbreaks by up to 85 percent. Like any drug, valaciclovir has side effects. These side effects include nausea or headache, but in general side effects of valaciclovir tend to be mild.
Just because your partner is using valaciclovir doesn’t mean that you should stop using condoms during sexual intercourse. Valaciclovir can reduce the chance of spreading herpes, but the risk remains substantial. Consider it a secondary line of defense, with condoms being the first. This rule should apply for all other suppressive therapies as well.
Famciclovir is also used in both episodic and suppressive therapy. When used in suppressive therapy, patients take the drug up to twice per day to treat recurrent outbreaks. Side effects of famciclovir include headache and nausea.
All three of these treatments for genital herpes have good safety records. When determining what drug to use for suppressive therapy, health care providers take into account various factors such as medical history, allergies and effectiveness of the drug. A key benefit of valaciclovir is that it is more easily absorbed into the blood than the other drugs, requiring fewer doses than the other treatments. This may be beneficial for busy or forgetful patients.
When starting suppressive therapy, you should consult frequently with your doctor concerning the efficacy of the treatment, and how well you’re tolerating the side effects.
Because of the health risks herpes poses to unborn children, aciclovir is commonly prescribed to pregnant women who are infected with herpes. Tests have shown that the drugs risks to unborn children are minimal, and the benefits of using this drug far outweigh the risks posed by herpes. The drug has also been found to be safe for use during breast feeding.
Finding out you have herpes can be an extremely disturbing incident, but there is hope for people who have this unfortunate illness. Suppressive therapy is one of the best of these hopes, allowing infected persons to reduce their chances of having an outbreak, their chances of infecting another person, their chances of catching another STD and mitigating the very unpleasant symptoms of this illness.