What's in this article?
What is herpes?
is a common sexually transmitted disease that any sexually active person can get. Most people with the virus don’t have symptoms. It is important to know that even without signs of the disease, it can still spread to sexual partners.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes simplex virus.
- HSV-1 is most commonly associated with blisters and ulcers around the mouth known as cold sores.
- HSV-2 is associated with blistering lesions in genital areas that are exposed during sexual contact.
However, both types of herpes simplex virus can infect the mouth or the genital areas, meaning that genital contact with a cold sore on the mouth can lead to genital herpes. Likewise, kissing someone with a cold sore can spread the herpes simplex virus infection.
After the initial outbreak of herpes, the virus travels through the nerves and resides in nerve tissue within the body. Reactivations, or repeat occurrences of the blisters, can occur throughout an individual’s lifetime. Among people aged 14 to 49, an estimated 1 out of every 6 people have the infection.
Genital herpes is not the same thing as genital warts. Genital warts are flesh-colored growths that appear on sexually-exposed areas due to infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
While there is no cure for herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections, there are various treatment options available.
Treatment for Genital Herpes
There are three antiviral medications that are FDA-approved for the treatment of genital herpes:
- Acyclovir: The oldest antiviral medication for herpes is acyclovir. It has been available since 1982 in a topical form (as an ointment) and sold since 1985 in pill form. Acyclovir has been shown to be safe in persons who have used it continuously (every day) for as long as 10 years.
- Valacyclovir: A newer drug, valacyclovir, actually uses acyclovir as its active ingredient. This medication delivers acyclovir more efficiently so that the body absorbs much of the drug, which has the advantage of taking the medication fewer times during the day.
- Famciclovir: Famciclovir uses penciclovir as its active ingredient to stop HSV from replicating. Like valacyclovir, it is well absorbed, persists for a longer time in the body, and can be taken less frequently than acyclovir.
- Antiviral medication is commonly prescribed for patients having a first episode of genital herpes, but they can be used for recurrent episodes as well. There are two kinds of treatment regimens: episodic therapy and suppressive therapy.