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How Effective Is Acyclovir for Herpes?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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The use of acyclovir for herpes treatment is part of standard medical practice in most regions because this drug is typically highly effective. No drug can cure herpes, or any other viral infection, but antiviral medications such as acyclovir can help the body to gain the upper hand in the struggle against a viral infection. This drug is most effective when administered intravenously but is still generally potent when given orally. Almost all strains of the herpes simplex virus respond well to treatment with this medicine, although limited resistance does occasionally emerge.

Herpes is a very common viral infection, and a majority of humans in most populations will have been exposed to at least one strain of this virus by the time they reach late middle-age. A herpes infection typically produces painful lesions that ooze for a short period and then scab over and begin to heal. The infection remains dormant in the body after this and may break out to produce lesions again at a later date.

There are two main strains of this virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Infections are most common in the soft tissues around the lips, where HSV-1 is more common, and genitals, where HSV-2 predominates. In less common instances infection may occur elsewhere on the body. Acyclovir for herpes treatment is effective against all forms of herpes infection in all locations.

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Herpes is a virus and thus more resistant to elimination by medicine or the defenses of the body than a bacterial infection. Treatment with acyclovir for herpes will not entirely destroy an outbreak of this virus nor will it remove the virus from the body. Acyclovir is helpful in limiting the duration and severity of outbreaks, however.

Patients who are generally healthy and experience few outbreaks will typically be given acyclovir for herpes as needed to deal with isolated outbreaks. Patients who suffer from more frequent outbreaks or who have weakened immune systems are often placed on a suppressive course of acyclovir. This cannot entirely prevent outbreaks, especially in immune-compromised individuals, but has been proven to reduce their frequency and severity.

Acyclovir for herpes can reduce the chances of spreading this infection through contact, either casual or sexual. A suppressive course of this drug is most effective for this. Even regular use of acyclovir will not entirely eliminate the possibility of spreading the virus, however.

This medicine can generally be administered orally in the form of a liquid or tablets. Much of the medicine is lost during the passage through the digestive system, but enough generally remains to be effective. If the concentration of acyclovir is important, a doctor may order the drug to be administered intravenously so that no medicine is lost to digestion.

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