Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can manifest in symptoms that range from mild to severe. In some cases, there are no apparent signs or symptoms of herpes, but a person can still be infected and can still spread the disease to others. Those who suffer from herpes symptoms may experience sores and blisters that cause pain and discomfort, and herpes outbreaks can occur frequently or intermittently.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes; however herpes can be treated, and there a number of different treatment options depending on each individual manifestation.
Mild cases of herpes can be treated without drugs through basic at-home self care. In order to prevent agitation and the spreading of sores and blisters, care should be taken not to touch sores and to wash one’s hands regularly after contact with a sore. The infected area should also be kept clean and dry, and for those who suffer from genital herpes, cotton underwear is recommended as cotton absorbs moisture. Sometimes doctors recommend soaking infected areas with warm water.
To ease discomfort, regular over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen can be helpful. Finally, one should refrain from all sexual contact while symptoms are evident, and one’s sexual partner should be notified and tested for herpes as well.
Antiviral drug treatments are used to minimize the severity and frequency of herpes outbreaks. Herpes cannot be cured, but medication can make the condition more manageable.
The three most common drugs currently used to treat herpes outbreaks are acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir (also known as Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex). Cases of severe herpes are sometimes treated with intravenous acyclovir.
There are two types of antiviral drug protocols that doctors recommend. In the first option, known as “intermittent treatment,” medications to treat herpes are taken each time one experiences a herpes outbreak. As soon a person feels another flare-up is about to begin, he or she can start taking the medicine, which hopefully will make symptoms less severe and help them go away faster.
The second treatment option for herpes is called “suppressive treatment.” This protocol is often recommended for those who suffer either frequent or very severe herpes outbreaks, and entails taking antiviral drugs every day on a regular basis. Suppressive treatments also reduce the risk of transmitting the herpes virus to others. It is estimated that suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks per year by 70% to 80%, and some people don’t have any outbreaks at all.
Over time your doctor might recommend discontinuing daily pills to see if you naturally have fewer outbreaks or if you find it difficult for some reason to take pills on a daily basis.
Note that herpes treatment formulas that are applied to the surface of the skin do not provide much benefit and are usually not recommended by doctors.
Alternative Treatments and Herbal Supplements
There are several alternative therapies in the form of herbal extracts and nutritional supplements which have been found to alleviate symptoms of herpes.
Some of these treatments include: propolis ointment (a waxy substance made by honeybees); the herb Prunella vulgaris; and the edible mushroom Rozites caperata (“gypsy mushroom”).
Researchers today continue to search for more effective herpes treatments, and ultimately for a herpes cure or a vaccine against the herpes virus.