What are the Different Types of Herpes Medication?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Herpes is a virus, and therefore the medicines used to treat it are antiviral in nature. In many cases, patients must take daily doses to keep the disease under control. The choice of herpes medication should be made only after consultation with a doctor. In addition to effectiveness, other things to consider are the costs and side effects. When taking medicine daily, these two areas are of great concern.

Herpes medication is usually given in pill form. The most common products to treat herpes are: acyclovir, famciclover, and valacyclovir. The brand names for these products are, in order, Zovirax®, Famvir®, and Valtrex®. Acyclovir must usually be taken more often than the two others, simply because the rate of absorption is less favorable than the others. Generics, if available, may present a cheaper option.

For some patients, medication is taken only during outbreaks. This helps keep the costs down, as well as the risk of side effects. For those who have more frequent outbreaks, usually six or more times a year, a more aggressive treatment plan may be prescribed. This would involve using the medication even when there is no outbreak present.


No herpes medication can provide a cure for the disease. Rather, all of these medications work to lessen the severity and the duration of the outbreaks. These medications will also help with the discomfort that often comes with the outbreaks, including soreness and burning sensations. Further, an outbreak represents the time when an individual is the most contagious. Therefore, getting over the outbreak quickly is in the best interest of the infected person and his or her partner.

No matter which type of medication is chosen, it is best to start the treatment as soon as symptoms are noticed, assuming a more proactive treatment is not already prescribed. Once the outbreak gets started, it will take longer to calm it down. Herpes outbreaks can be very unpredictable. This is why patients need to make sure that medicine is on hand, even when there are not any symptoms present.

Common side effects of herpes medication include headache, nausea, joint pain, stomach or abdominal pain, and even diarrhea or constipation. Kidney problems represent the most serious side effect, but this usually only happens with prolonged exposure. Those experiencing side effects should consult their physician. They may be diminished or completely eliminated by switching to a different anti-viral drug.


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Post 3

@croydon - While I agree that there needs to be less of a stigma surrounding herpes when, let's face it, most people actually do have it, it's not true that you can get a medication which prevents infection.

You can take anti-virals which can lower your chances of infecting someone, which, along with condoms or other forms of barrier protection, can go a long way towards preventing infection.

But there is nothing that will protect 100 percent from herpes except not having sex (or kissing, or coming into contact with any part of another person which might have the virus.)

Frankly, with the kinds of herpes treatments they have available these days, I just don't mind the thought of getting it so much. It's more an inconvenience than anything else, and I wouldn't want to give up having a love life in order to protect against it.

Post 2

@pleonasm - In fact there are quite advanced anti-viral medicines available, for AIDS and for herpes. So advanced that you basically don't have symptoms and might not even shed the virus, so you can't give it to others.

That's not quite a cure, of course, but it's as good as you're going to get without actually curing the thing.

Herpes has quite a stigma attached to it, unfortunately. Probably because it's sexually transmitted.

But, something like 80 percent of people have herpes now. It doesn't go away and it can be transmitted even if you use protection. It's here to stay (until they find a cure!).

If people were less worried about the stigma, they'd be more likely to go to the doctor and get the medications that help them to stop shedding the virus so that they can't give it to others.

This would slow down the rate of infection in the general population.

Post 1

That's the worst thing about herpes. Once you've got it, there's no cure.

Unfortunately, even with all the advances in medicine that we've had over the last fifty years or so, there are very few ways to rid the human body from a virus.

In fact, one of the good things that has come from the AIDS epidemic is that the research into it might help us to one day develop ways of removing infections like herpes as well.

But, for now, once you have a virus there's not much you can do except control the symptoms.

And even those medications aren't fool proof, so you should also take care to make sure you keep yourself as healthy as possible, so that your own body will help to control the virus.

Even after all this time, the human body is still more efficient and clever at fighting viruses than the human mind is.

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