Herpes Treatment

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Herpes

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Before you start a diagnosis, please read all of the information below.

Genital herpes is usually a sexually transmitted viral infection. Many people infected with this virus never have symptoms, but can still pass on the infection to others. Genital herpes is an infection of the genitals (penis in men, vulva, and vagina in women) and the surrounding area of skin. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The buttocks and anus may also be affected.

The first episode of symptoms can last 2-3 weeks but may be shorter. The virus remains in your body and can become active from time to time causing recurrent symptoms which are usually less severe than the first episode. Antiviral medication can ease symptoms when they develop.

Herpes is very contagious and passes to others through direct skin to skin contact such as sex. The virus passes easily through the moist membranes that line the genitals, mouth, and anus. It can be passed on even when the person has no symptoms. However, if the infected person has sores, then it passes on more readily.

Most people who carry the virus are unaware that they have it. There are often no symptoms at the beginning, and they may not occur for months or years afterwards. 

There is no cure for genital herpes, but the symptoms can be managed with antiviral medications. Treatments we may prescribe if clinically appropriate:

Please see Common Treatments below for further information.

If you have greater than six outbreaks in a year or have particularly severe recurrent outbreaks, then you may benefit from taking long-term antivirals for 6 to 12 months. This is called suppressive therapy for herpes.


Common Symptoms

  • The first signs are often tingling, burning or itching in the genital or leg area.
  • Painful red blisters then appear around the genital area, thighs and buttocks.
  • The blisters burst leaving sores.
Common Treatments

Possible treatments for an acute outbreak of herpes we prescribe if clinically appropriate:

  • Aciclovir 200mg one tablet five times a day: 5-day course (£0.99*)
  • Valaciclovir 500mg twice a day: 5-day course (£2.84*)

Possible treatments for suppressive treatment of herpes we prescribe if clinically appropriate:

  • Aciclovir 400mg twice a day: 2-month course (£5.70*)

*Prices shown are cost price of the medication, taken from the British National Formulary 2018, and are given as a guideline. Pharmacies will add a dispensing fee to this which will vary considerably, so it is worthwhile phoning around to compare prices. The medication is paid for at your chosen pharmacy. 

Please click on the medication above to read the Patient Information Leaflet for important information about each drug. We use national prescribing guidelines to select which treatment would be most appropriate for your condition. 

Self-help for the symptoms

To help ease your symptoms, you may wish to try the following:

Wear loose clothing

  • to avoid irritating the sores.

Saltwater

  • To keep the area clean which will improve healing and reduce the likelihood of infection.

Ice packs wrapped in a cloth

  • to help soothe the pain (do not apply ice directly to the skin).

Vaseline or local anaesthetic cream

  • to help with the pain.
  • wash your hands before and after application. 

Keep well hydrated

  • this keeps your urine diluted to reduce discomfort when passing it.
Information about aciclovir

There is no cure for genital herpes but the symptoms can be managed with antiviral medications. 

Aciclovir is an antiviral tablet. Please read the manufacturers leaflet inside the pack which will give you more information about the medication and the full list of side effects you may experience.

Aciclovir can be taken either with or without food. Try to space out your doses evenly over the day, and complete the full course of treatment. Drink plenty of water as it is important that you don't become dehydrated. Keep taking the Aciclovir until the full course is finished (unless a doctor tells you to stop), even if you feel that the infection has cleared up.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember and then continue as before. However, do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.

Avoid sex until the symptoms have cleared up and use a condom afterwards to help prevent passing on the virus.

Never give your medication to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Possible side effects to aciclovir

Most types of medicines can cause potential side effects. However, not everyone will experience them. The side effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but if any of them continue or become troublesome then speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Aciclovir may cause increased sensitivity of your skin to sunlight whilst taking the medication. Avoid strong sunlight and using sunbeds and use a high SPF sun cream.

Common side effects (which may affect 1 in 10 people) include:

  • nausea, vomiting or a stomachache
    • avoid fatty or spicy foods
  • itchy rash
  • headache
    • drink lots of water and take paracetamol
  • diarrhoea
  • dizziness or fatigue
    • avoid driving or using machinery until the symptoms settle
Information about valaciclovir

There is no cure for genital herpes but the symptoms can be managed with antiviral medications. 

Before starting any medication, please read the manufacturers leaflet inside the pack which will give you more information about the medication and the full list of side effects you may experience.

Valaciclovir works by reducing the severity of the infection and stopping the virus from spreading. It is broken down into aciclovir in the body.

Valaciclovir can be taken either with or without food. Try to space out your doses evenly over the day, and complete the full course of treatment. Drink plenty of water as it is important that you don't become dehydrated. Keep taking the medication until the full course is finished (unless a doctor tells you to stop), even if you feel that the infection has cleared up.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember and then continue as before. However, do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.

Avoid sex until the symptoms have cleared up and use a condom afterwards to help prevent passing on the virus.

Never give your medication to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Possible side effects to valaciclovir

Most types of medicines can cause potential side effects. However, not everyone will experience them. The side effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but if any of them continue or become troublesome then you may contact us, or speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Valaciclovir may cause increased sensitivity of your skin to sunlight whilst taking the medication. Avoid strong sunlight and using sunbeds and use a high SPF sun cream.

Common side effects (which may affect 1 in 10 people) include:

  • nausea, vomiting, stomachache
    • avoid fatty or spicy foods
  • itchy rash
  • headache
    • drink lots of water and take paracetamol
  • diarrhoea
  • dizziness or fatigue
    • avoid driving or using machinery until the symptoms settle
  • itching or a skin rash
Allergic reaction to medications

An itchy rash, swollen face or mouth, or difficulty in breathing, may be signs that you are allergic to the medication. 

Please note that i-GP DOES NOT TREAT Medical Emergencies. 

If you develop a sudden onset of any of the symptoms below then you must STOP the medication immediately and seek urgent medical advice. This could be from your GP, Out of Hours Service, Urgent Care Centre or NHS 111. Call an ambulance or go to A&E if the symptoms are severe.

  • Wheeze
  • Difficulty in Breathing
  • Swelling of the eyelids, face or lips
  • A rash particularly if affecting your entire body

 

Triggers for recurrences

Trigger factors for recurrent outbreaks may include:

  • being unwell
  • friction during sex
  • stress
  • sunbeds (exposure to uv light)
  • weakened immune system
  • excess alcohol

Start a herpes diagnosis

Do you think you require treatment for genital herpes?


We could diagnose and send you a treatment plan with a prescription, if appropriate, within an hour. You can collect your medication from your chosen pharmacy.