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What is the Treatment for Genital Herpes?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The treatment for genital herpes can vary from no treatment at all to more significant interventions when required. It should be noted that there is presently no cure for this condition, and treatment principally aims at reducing the number of outbreaks, shortening days of illness, and causing reduction in symptom discomfort. The degree to which the illness is creating problems determines the necessity of medical interventions. Principal treatment for genital herpes, when warranted, typically involves use of antiviral creams and/or oral medications.

When people have a first outbreak of genital herpes, doctors may recommend a couple of different approaches. They could suggest patients take an oral antiviral medication at least through the duration of the first outbreak. Sometimes antiviral creams or lotions are also recommended because they can reduce discomfort of the rash associated with the condition. Creams and pills are both useful in shortening the duration of initial outbreaks. People could also take over the counter pain medications like acetaminophen to reduce flulike symptoms of a first expression of the illness or to relieve some discomfort.

Some patients continue to use an oral or cream antiviral medication as treatment for genital herpes each time the disease resurfaces. Another approach is to continuously use an oral antiviral drug. This can help suppress some outbreaks and may reduce total number in a given time period. It is most often recommended when people have six or more infections per year or if part of treatment attempt is to reduce contagiousness so that partners are less likely to become infected during outbreak-free times. Some people shed the virus even when they don’t have active symptoms and an infected person may want to consider using suppression therapy to minimize risk to others.

In most cases, patients don’t indefinitely use suppression treatment for genital herpes. Many of the antiviral medications that are commonly employed haven’t been studied significantly to determine if they’re safe or beneficial for use over numerous years. Typically, if people remain on one of these medicines, they do so for six to twelve months until outbreak frequency has been significantly reduced. At this point, most people discontinue suppression therapy, though there may be a few exceptions.

The longer herpes lives in the body, the less it expresses itself. It’s thought that people develop some immunity to it, so that outbreaks are fewer and shorter as time continues. This can change if someone is under great physical or emotional stress, and the virus may have several re-expressions that are stronger or rashes could occur more frequently for a time. Generally, most people experience fewer outcroppings of the disease as time progresses. When new symptoms emerge, doctors might still recommend treatment for genital herpes with a brief course of lotion or oral antiviral meds, but plenty of people don’t opt for this, and it isn’t strictly necessary.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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