Herpes is a viral infection that is spread from person-to-person by direct physical contact. While there are more than 70 viruses in the herpes family, only four affect humans: Varicella-zoster (VZV) (the chicken pox virus, or shingles), Herpes simplex (HSV), Epstein-Barr (EBV), and Ctomegalovirus (CMV). Of these, the most commonly contracted and readily diagnosed is the herpes simplex virus. While there is no cure, there are several herpes treatments available that can help reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
HSV occurs as either type I or type II, or HSV-1 and HSV-2, respectively. Type I is characterized by the appearance of fever blisters cropping up on the lips, around the mouth and, sometimes, around the eyelids. Type II is quite different since it produces fluid-filled ulcers on the genitals. However, it’s a common misconception that herpes blisters remain isolated to these areas when, in fact, they may appear anywhere on the body, even the fingers. For this reason, diagnosis of herpes is made and typed by blood tests for the presence of certain antibodies and culture of blister fluid.
The latest development in herpes treatments involves the use of pre-existing vaccines, such as the polio and smallpox vaccines. Unfortunately, there’s good and bad news in this department. First, trial studies indicate that these vaccines may prevent the development of herpes in some people, but usually do nothing to prevent outbreaks in those who already have the virus. However, a potential herpes vaccine called Isoniplex (Isoprinosine) vaccine may prevent both primary infection and recurring outbreaks. While it is currently being used in more than 50 countries, it is not expected to be approved in the U.S. for several more years, if at all.
Other herpes treatments include antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir, valaclovir, and famciclovir. Each medication is metabolized a bit differently, but the common goal between them is to inhibit viral replication of the herpes virus in healthy cells. However, these medications are primarily genital herpes treatments, although famciclovir is also beneficial for treating herpes zoster. In addition, these drugs may produce side effects in a small percentage of people, such as nausea, dizziness, vision disturbances, fever, joint pain, and yellowing of the eyes or skin.
Since this condition involves compromised immunity, several nutritional supplements are now recognized as effective herpes treatments. One of the best-studied dietary considerations is the monitoring of the ratio of the amino acids, L-lysine and arginine.
Numerous studies show that increased levels of L-lysine blocks the synthesis of arginine proteins, which are needed for viral replication. The idea is to limit arginine-rich foods (chocolate, fish, grains, and nuts), while increasing the consumption of L-lysine-rich foods. Abundant natural sources of L-lysine include poultry, beef, milk, cheese, eggs, and beans.