Antiviral drugs help people with genital herpes stay symptom-free longer and reduce the severity and duration of symptoms when they flare up. Taking a daily dose of antivirals helps many people have no outbreaks at all or reduces them to 1-2 per year. But, this drug therapy is not a cure, it just makes living with the condition easier.
There are three major drugs commonly used to treat genital herpes symptoms: acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex).
Acyclovir is an antiviral drug that is very helpful in treating herpes simplex. Acyclovir is the oldest of the three, and its safety has been documented in people taking suppressive therapy for several years. Acyclovir (commercialized under the brand name of zovirax) is proved to be very effective in treating and reducing the growth and spread of herpes virus. Acyclovir helps the body to fight against the virus providing immunity. Acyclovir does not completely cure herpes disease, but it reduces the symptoms and spread of the herpes infection.
The first time one is diagnosed with genital herpes and displays symptoms such as sores, the doctor will usually prescribe a 7 to 10 days of antiviral therapy. This therapy will relieve the sores or prevent them from getting worse.
After the first outbreak and treatment the doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug for you to keep on hand in case you have another flare-up; this is called intermittent therapy. You can take the pills for two to five days as soon as you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on. Sores will heal and disappear on their own, but taking the drugs can make the symptoms less severe and make them go away faster.
If you have outbreaks often or severe enough to interfere with your life, you may want to consider taking an antiviral drug every day. Doctors call this suppressive therapy. Suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks to 1-2 per year. Many people who take the antiviral drugs daily have no outbreaks at all. That does not mean that you are cured of genital herpes, just that the virus is kept dormant by the drugs.
Taking daily suppressive therapy may also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to a sex partner, but pay attention, the risk is not zero.
No one wants to take a drug, daily for the rest of their lives and everybody is concerned about the side effects. You should know that Acyclovir is the oldest of the three antiviral drugs mentioned at the beginning of the article, and its safety has been documented in people taking suppressive therapy for several years. You should know however, that some people complain of side effects like: stomach upset, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache dizziness, weakness. Pregnant or nursing women must not take it and also people with kidney disease.
Usually when you are on a drug for the rest of your life you should take care of your kidney and liver,but we will touch that subject in another article.