Currently, there is no treatment to cure herpes;
however, there is no cure for any virus at this point. There are
three antiviral medications (in pill form) approved by the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) that are available for the treatment
of herpes: Zovirax® (acyclovir), Famvir® (famciclovir)
and Valtrex® (valacyclovir).
Each of these medications can be used during a recurrence
to help speed the healing process of an outbreak. All three drugs
are FDA approved for daily, suppressive therapy to help reduce
the frequency of outbreaks.
· Zovirax is also available in the form of
an ointment, but the medication has been proven to be much more
effective when taken orally.
· Valtrex, when taken daily (suppressive
therapy) by a person with recurrent genital herpes, can reduce
the risk of transmission to a partner.
According to the manufacturers, the most common
short-term side effects reported were nausea and headaches. These
medications have never been noted to cause any long-term side
effects. Using medication to treat genital herpes is not required.
However, if a person would like to use antivirals, speaking with
a health care provider can help determine which treatment may
be right for them.
You can speak to your doctor about the proper medications
for you. Over-the-counter creams and/or ointments are not recommended
for genital herpes.
Any sexually active person may contract genital herpes. However,
herpes can be prevented and there are ways to reduce risk.
· If someone has a symptom around the mouth
(oral herpes), she or he should not perform oral sex until all
signs have healed.
· If someone has signs or symptoms around
the genital region (genital herpes), he or she should not have
sexual activity until all signs have healed.
· When there are no symptoms present, using
latex condoms for genital-to-genital contact reduces the risk
· One antiviral medication for herpes, valacyclovir
(Valtrex®), has recently been shown to reduce the risk of
herpes transmission. When taken daily by a person with a history
of recurrent genital herpes, valacyclovir can reduce the risk
of transmission to a partner who does not have the virus by 50%.
It’s likely that a combination of suppressive valacyclovir
and condoms provides greater protection than either method alone.
· Microbicides/Spermicides have not been
proven to reduce the risk of transmission. If used, they should
be used with a condom, not in place of one.
· Partner communication. It is important
for both partners to become educated about herpes and to make
decisions together about which precautions are best.
· If your partner has herpes, using condoms
for sexual activity and not having sex while symptoms are present
will reduce the risk of transmission.
Pregnacy and Herpes
It is important to avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy as
herpes can be life threatening to an infant. It is rare for infants
to contract herpes. Twenty percent to 25 percent of pregnant women
have genital herpes. Less than 0.1 percent of babies contract
genital herpes. A mother helps the baby by passing her antibodies
to the infant during pregnancy. Women who acquire genital herpes
before becoming pregnant have a low risk of passing the virus
to their baby.
A woman who contracts genital herpes during the
third trimester of pregnancy is at a higher risk of passing herpes
to the baby because she has not had time to build up antibodies
to the virus. Most mothers with genital herpes have normal vaginal
deliveries. The doctor should do a thorough visual exam at the
onset of labor.
If a woman has symptoms at the time of delivery,
a Caesarean section is recommended. If an infant does contract
herpes during delivery, the symptoms tend to show within two to
three weeks after birth. Medication may help prevent or reduce
the lasting damage to an infant if treated early.
After birth, herpes can be passed to a baby by receiving
a kiss from someone with a cold sore on the mouth (oral herpes).