Types of Herpes Treatments

herpes cold sore on face
Herpes Cold Sore on Face. Todd Keith/E+/Getty Images

Types of Herpes Medications

There are three major types of medications used to treat oral herpes (cold sores) and genital herpes. These are acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. All three medications are classified as anti-virals, and they have similar properties. Acyclovir is the product that has been available longest. Therefore, there is often more evidence in support of treatment with it than the other herpes medications.


Using Herpes Treatments to Relieve Symptoms

Herpes medications are often used to shorten outbreaks and reduce the severity of symptoms. For this purpose, only short courses of herpes treatment are needed. People usually medication as soon as they feel prodromal symptoms. Those symptoms, which signal the start of an outbreak, also signal a good time to start with the herpes meds. Oral treatment usually lasts from 5-10 days. However, some shorter course treatments are available. 

Oral treatment involves the use of acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir. All three drugs have similar mechanisms of action. However, famciclovir and valacyclovir are formulated in a way that allows people to take them less frequently. There are circumstances in which individuals will be prescribed to take acyclovir as often as 5 times a day. The other drugs are usually taken only once or twice a day. 

Herpes Treatments to Prevent Outbreaks

Herpes medications aren't only used to get rid of cold sores and genital symptoms.

They can also be used to prevent outbreaks. This type of therapy is called suppressive therapy. People take herpes medications on an ongoing basis to keep the levels of virus low in their bloodstream. Therapy usually involves the use of oral acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir, as there is less evidence for topical treatment.

Suppressive therapy makes it less likely that outbreaks will occur. It also reduces the likelihood that herpes will spread to a partner. Therefore, some people use suppressive therapy even when they do not have regular outbreaks. However, it's important to remember that transmission can still occur, even if you never have an outbreak. 

Alternative Therapies for Herpes

There are several "alternative" or natural products that are advertised as herpes treatments. Interestingly, the treatment with the best evidence isn't the one you'd necessarily assume. Although lysine is often discussed as a herpes treatment, the evidence is mixed. Some studies have found positive effects, while others have found none. Interestingly, there is an alternative treatment that has more consistent evidence... honey! Its natural anti-microbial properties actually seem to help symptoms heal. There are several honey extract (propiolis) ointments available for topical use. 

Herpes Scams and Fake Herpes Cures

There are a lot of fake herpes treatments and cures out there on the market.

The people who make them know that people with herpes are often easy targets. The stigma of the disease is so profound, that many people will try anything for a cure. Fortunately, if you know what you're doing, fake herpes cures are easy to spot. You just have to know what you're looking for

The irony is that many testimonials for fake cures are made by real people. That's because these scams and fake herpes cures can actually seem to be working, when they're not actually doing anything at all. How? Most people get fewer outbreaks over time. Their outbreaks also become less severe. When those things happen after they start taking a medication, the medication may seem to be working. However, a lot of the time, those improvements would have happened anyway!


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