Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The illness is characterised by blisters and sores around the vagina, penis or anus. No cure for herpes exists but it is treatable.

  1. In 2015, there were 33,000 new cases reported in England
  2. Treatment can help to decrease symptoms
  3. Medicine-expedited recovery takes just days


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0 treatment(s) for Herpes



  1. Functions in the affected area right away
  2. Speeds up the recovery process
  3. Available in cream, tablet or dispersible tablet form


  1. Proficient at tackling genital herpes.
  2. Gets to work quickly to limit symptoms.
  3. Only needs to be taken 2-3 times a day.


  1. Treats outbreaks fast
  2. Prevents symptoms before they can develop
  3. Ideal for people who get frequent recurrences


  1. Popular and widely-used treatment for herpes
  2. Tackles symptoms before they happen
  3. Helps those with a weakened immune system


Herpes is a virus which is transferred through various forms of physical contact. There are two main types: herpes simplex type 1; and herpes simplex type 2. HSV-1 tends to be more associated with oral blisters and cold sores; whereas HSV-2 is more commonly related to genital herpes.

The virus is spread through direct or indirect contact with sores and blisters, meaning that, although it is classed as an STI (sexually transmitted infection), it can be passed on to others through alternative means. Oral contact, such as kissing is one of the main causes when it comes to the transmission of cold sores, but sharing eating or drinking implements without proper sanitation can also cause the infection to spread. Genital herpes, however, is much more likely to be passed on through sexual contact. The virus is not usually contagious during periods of remission, and is at its most contagious when it is in an active state.

The virus can affect anyone at any age. It can also be inherited from mother to child. There were around 35,000 new cases of genital herpes diagnosed in 2015 in the UK, so the condition is far from uncommon. However, despite the painful and uncomfortable nature of the virus, many carriers may choose not to seek treatment, because they feel anxious about approaching a doctor in person.

Currently, there is no cure for either of these strains of herpes, and once it is present, it remains in the body for life. The virus will most typically go through cycles, becoming active during times of stress or illness (these re-emergences are referred to as reactivations or flare-ups) and settling down into remission after a period of days or weeks. Reactivations tend to be less severe or more infrequent as people get older, but they can still prove problematic for those experiencing them.

As the condition cannot be cured, the aim of treatment is to bring about remission faster and ease symptoms. The active ingredients in herpes treatments achieve this by attacking the reproduction process of the virus. To grow and multiply, the herpes virus requires the production of an enzyme, called DNA polymerase. By restricting the conversion of this enzyme, the treatments work to stop the infection spreading. This then enables the body’s immune system to tackle the virus and fight it back to a dormant state.

If you have herpes and you wish to seek treatment, you should contact your doctor. They will be able to make a diagnosis and issue a prescription for the most suitable medication for you.

Page last reviewed:  08/09/2017
Types of Treatment

Types of Treatment

Currently, no herpes cure exists. As it is a virus, treatments for the condition are typically antiviral medicines. Whereas bacterial infections can be fought off with antibiotic medicine, viral infections will require a different approach. Herpes is an example of a viral infection which is, at present, not curable. Treatment for the condition aims towards limiting the spread of the virus, and preventing reactivations.

Treatments for herpes include Valtrex, Aciclovir and Famvir, and Valaciclovir.

How do they work?

Antiviral medicine encompasses a wide variety of treatment, which work in various different ways. What herpes treatments do is stop the growth of viral cells. They do this by inhibiting the virus’s ability to produce a self-sustaining enzyme, which it needs to multiply. By limiting the virus’s progress, these treatments make it easier for the body’s natural immune system to fight it into remission.

What are the side effects?

As with any medication, treatments for herpes may cause side effects in a small number of cases. These may vary from treatment to treatment, but side effects which are common in many medicines of this kind include headaches, dizziness and diarrhoea.

Can I take them with other medications?

This depends entirely on which other medications you are currently using. A list of those which affect the efficacy of these treatments and vice versa can be found in the patient information leaflet of each product. Always tell your doctor if you are using other medications during consultation, so that they can advise the best possible course of treatment.

Page last reviewed:  08/09/2017
Question and Answers

What’s the difference between the medications?

The medicines for the treatment of herpes contain an antiviral agent, and perform a similar action. Some may also be adept at treating different types or strains of herpes infections, including cold sores, and even herpes zoster (shingles). Valtrex, Famvir and Valaciclovir are available as tablets, whereas Aciclovir is also available as a cream and an orodispersible tablet.

Should I take Aciclovir, Famvir, Valaciclovir or Valtrex?

Which one you take might be determined by what form of medication you find most convenient to use (whether it is a tablet, an orodispersible tablet, or a cream); how susceptible you are to side effects; and the nature of your infection. For more information, consult your physician.

Are there different side effects?

Yes. Each medicine contains slightly different ingredients, and each of these may induce varying side effects. You can find a summary of the possible side effects associated with each on the respective pages for each treatment. Alternatively, consult the patient information leaflet to find out more.

Is it right for me?

If you are seeking herpes medicine, contact your GP service or sexual health clinic for an appointment. They will be able to assess your symptoms and provide access to the most suitable treatment.

Page last reviewed:  08/09/2017
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