Herpes Treatment

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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.


  • 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.
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.