In my previous article about being tested for herpes you learned that getting a true positive test result for herpes could require months of possible testing and retesting. If you do test positive for HSV-2, (genital type 2 herpes) or HSV-1 (oral type 1 herpes) but have it in the genital area, then what are your options?
First, there is no cure for herpes. The focus then is on how to relieve and diminish symptoms and how to decrease shedding of the virus to limit transmitting herpes to someone else.
According to WebMD, there are “at least 45 million American adults and adolescents have genital herpes -- that's one out of every four to five people, making it one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.”
Currently there are three main oral antiviral medications, acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or valacyclovir (Valtrex), that prevent the virus from multiplying and can shorten the length of time an eruption lasts. The risk of side effects of taking these drugs orally has been found to be low and may improve over time.
Topical medications can be applied to lesions but are less effective than oral ones, stated Medicinenet.com.
The initial outbreak usually has worse symptoms than recurrent ones. However, oral medication is only effective if started before another outbreak begins. For this reason, you need to have a prescription filled and ready to take as soon as you feel any sensation of tingling, itching or burning in the area.
About 90 percent of people with genital herpes do have recurrent outbreaks, stated Medicine.net. Some people only have a couple a year, others have several. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) pointed out that typically outbreaks diminish over time as the body develops antibodies to the virus.
For those who have more than six recurrences a year, suppressive therapy can be given where you take antiviral medication all the time. All three of the above drugs can be used that way.
The big thing to know is that you can transmit herpes to others or they to you even if there are no symptoms. The virus sheds cells that infect your partner even without an outbreak.
In general, there is no real “safe sex” that can prevent transmitting herpes to others. However, consistent use of condoms, use of suppressive therapy and avoiding sex during an outbreak can help.
Dr. Peter Leone, an expert on sexually transmitted diseases and associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Public Health, spoke to the New York Times.
“Condoms reduce the risk of transmission by about 30 percent, and daily suppressive therapy reduces the risk of transmission by about 48 percent, studies show. Using condoms and taking daily suppressive therapy reduces the risk even further than either measure alone, though studies were not large enough to provide reliable numbers.”
While herpes is not a life threatening diseases it can be a life altering one that requires attention and modification of your lifestyle.
Sexual Health and Genital Herpes. WebMD. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
Genital Herpes In Women: What is the treatment for genital herpes? Retrieved July 28, 2013.
Herpes simplex: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
Giving Your Partner Herpes. New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
What Are the Side Effects of Acyclovir? Erich Rosenberger M.D., Yahoovoices. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith