How Effective Is Acyclovir for Herpes?

Gregory Hanson
Gregory Hanson

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.

A blister caused by herpes type 1.
A blister caused by herpes type 1.

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.

Herpes infections are most common around the lips.
Herpes infections are most common around the lips.

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.

Individuals with herpes are able to donate blood as long as they are feeling well.
Individuals with herpes are able to donate blood as long as they are feeling well.

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.

Condoms may be ineffective against genital herpes.
Condoms may be ineffective against genital herpes.

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.

Acyclovir can help reduce the chances of spreading herpes through sexual contact.
Acyclovir can help reduce the chances of spreading herpes through sexual contact.

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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    • A blister caused by herpes type 1.
      A blister caused by herpes type 1.
    • Herpes infections are most common around the lips.
      Herpes infections are most common around the lips.
    • Individuals with herpes are able to donate blood as long as they are feeling well.
      Individuals with herpes are able to donate blood as long as they are feeling well.
    • Condoms may be ineffective against genital herpes.
      Condoms may be ineffective against genital herpes.
    • Acyclovir can help reduce the chances of spreading herpes through sexual contact.
      Acyclovir can help reduce the chances of spreading herpes through sexual contact.
    • Antiviral creams can help manage genital herpes outbreaks.
      Antiviral creams can help manage genital herpes outbreaks.
    • Acyclovir may be used in combination with some topical treatments for HSV-1.
      Acyclovir may be used in combination with some topical treatments for HSV-1.