Genital herpes affects nearly one-fifth of the population of the United States. While not deadly, this sexually-transmitted disease can lead to some significant health complications and can have a very negative impact on the quality of life for those infected with the illness. Herpes is incurable, but there are a variety of treatments that can make the disease more bearable, and reduce the chance that infected persons may spread it to others.
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which comes in two varieties, HSV-1 and HSV-2. While it’s commonly believed that HSV-1 only causes oral herpes, or cold sores, the fact is that HSV-1 can cause genital herpes. HSV-1 genital herpes infections tend to have less severe symptoms than HSV-2 infections, however.
Herpes cannot currently be cured. The difficulty in curing herpes is that this viral infection can lie dormant in nerve cells, making it difficult to root out. There are many treatment options for herpes, however, and which one is right for you depends on the severity of your infection and your personal medical history and lifestyle.
Antiviral treatments are among the most popular and common treatments for herpes, and can work to both mitigate symptoms and reduce the frequency of herpes outbreaks. A herpes outbreak is the most common symptom of herpes and is characterized by the emergence of painful sores that turn to blisters in the genital area.
Antiviral medications work against herpes by disrupting viral replication. This slows down the viruses rate of replicating itself, and thus gives your body’s natural immune system a greater opportunity to intervene. The drugs depend on the viral enzyme thymidine kinase to convert the drug to monophosphate, then diphosphate and triphosphate. When this occurs in the right sequence, viral DNA replication is inhibited.
The three main antiviral treatments for genital herpes are aciclovir, valaciclovir and famciclovir. Aciclovir is the oldest of these treatments, and was introduced in the early 1980s. Because it’s available in generic brands, it’s the cheapest of these drugs. Valaciclovir and famciclovir, both more recent innovations, dissolve better in water and are more easily absorbed by the body.
Aciclovir is often used in suppressive therapy for pregnant women to prevent transmission of the disease to the unborn child. Valaciclovir and famciclovir are currently undergoing safety testing for use by pregnant women.
Famciclovir has been found to have an extremely effective use as suppressive therapy if patients begin use of the drug soon after their first infection. In fact, in patients who begin treatment with famciclovir within a few weeks after their first outbreak, a recurrence rate of less than 5 percent has been reported.
There are a variety of topical treatments that can be used to relieve the symptoms of herpes during an outbreak. Docosanol is commonly used in cosmetics, but is also available as an over-the-counter drug for treatment of oral herpes treatments. For genital herpes treatments, Abreva is an over-the-counter topical treatment that can shorten the length of oral herpes outbreaks. Aciclovir, famiciclovir and valaciclovir also are used in topical form to treat herpes symptoms.
Pain relievers and other drugs
Research has shown that patients with recurrent herpes outbreaks can benefit by taking a daily dose of low-dose aspirin. This is because aspirin reduces the level of prostaglandins that contribute to the inflammation that herpes outbreaks cause. Other drugs, such as cimetidine and probenecid have also been found to help facilitate the effectiveness of valaciclovir.
Natural and alternative treatments
Research has shown that some herbal and other alternative treatments can have a positive impact on people infected with herpes. Research has shown that certain dietary adjustments and supplements can be beneficial, when taken in conjunction with the appropriate antiviral treatments. Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, and garlic have been found to be an effective supplement to help control herpes when taken with antiviral treatments. Aloe vera has been found to be an effective topical treatment for mitigating the symptoms of herpes outbreaks.
Home remedies that have been shown to have a positive impact on reducing symptoms during herpes outbreaks include wearing loose-fitting clothing and avoiding excessive heat.
Avoid bogus “cures”
While there are many Internet sites claiming to have a cure for herpes, the truth is that at this time medical science has no cure for this sexually transmitted disease. Claims of a cure are, at this time, completely false. People with herpes should concentrate on effective treatments for this illness, rather than pursuing the false hope peddled by snake oil salesmen.
Herpes may be with you for life, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. By embracing appropriate treatment and sticking to it, infected persons can mitigate the impact of herpes on their quality of life.