Herpes is a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes simplex virus: type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 mainly affects the mouth area and is called oral herpes or herpes simplex labialis. It can cause lesions or sores, also commonly known as cold sores or cold sores, around the lips, tongue, mouth, or gums. In rare cases, HSV-1 can also cause genital wounds or blisters (genital herpes).
HSV-1 is a contagious virus that can be transmitted through direct oral contact such as kissing or by sharing utensils with an infected person.
HSV-2 mainly affects the genital area. It can cause sores or blisters in the genital or anal areas of the body. It is transmitted sexually through contact with genital herpes sores or blisters from an infected person.
Symptoms of HSV-1 or HSV-2 can include:
- Blisters or sores that can be painful
- Burning sensation, tingling sensation
- Body aches
- Sore throat
There is no cure for a herpes simplex virus infection. After the initial infection, the virus can dormant and come back. Most people do not have serious symptoms of herpes simplex, and symptoms such as sores or blisters go away on their own. However, some people with immune-related problems may experience more severe symptoms.
There are several drugs that have been shown to be effective in treating symptoms.
Below we discuss some of the most common medications used to treat oral and genital herpes.
There are several antiviral drugs that are effective for treating herpes simplex infection. They belong to the group of antiviral drugs and are available in various dosage forms. Antiviral drugs work in treating herpes simplex symptoms by preventing the virus from multiplying and growing in the body.
A doctor can discuss the best choice for you based on:
- your symptoms
- your age
- any other health problems you might have
- other medications you may be taking
The dosage of your antiviral drug depends on:
- the dosage form (oral, buccal or topical)
- Your condition (oral or genital herpes)
- whether it is a first or recurrent infection
- your age
Common side effects of oral antiviral drugs can include:
- Nausea, vomiting
Some serious side effects of oral antiviral drugs can include:
Let your doctor know if you do
- health problems such as liver or kidney problems, or blood disorders
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- are immunocompromised (weakened immune system)
- are taking other medications or supplements
Acyclovir is a generic prescription version of the branded drug Zovirax. It is used to treat the symptoms of recurring (repeated episodes) oral or genital herpes.
Acyclovir is also the active ingredient in the branded drug Sitavig.
Sitavig comes as buccal tablets that you put into your upper gum area to dissolve. It is used to treat the symptoms of recurrent oral herpes.
Remember, even while you are taking acyclovir, you can pass the infection on if you have active wounds or blisters. The drug does not cure your herpes simplex infection.
A doctor or pharmacist will discuss the right dose of Zovirax or Sitavig for you.
Docosanol is a topical antiviral cream that is available over the counter to treat recurrent oral herpes infections of the face or lips. A 2010
Most people will not experience any side effects when taking docosanol, but on rare occasions some people may be allergic to the drug. If you experience a rash, facial swelling, dizziness, difficulty breathing, or any other serious reaction to docosanol, seek medical help immediately.
Wash hands before and after using the cream. Keep in mind that docosanol does not cure oral herpes and you can still spread the virus if you have a sore or a blister.
Famcliclovir is a generic version of the branded drug Famvir. It comes as a tablet that you will swallow.
It is used to treat repeated episodes of oral and genital herpes in adults. Famciclovir is also used to prevent repeated episodes of genital herpes in people who have common herpes symptoms.
A doctor can provide more information about famciclovir, its dosage, and how effective it is for your condition.
Penciclovir is an active ingredient under the brand name Denavir. It is a prescription drug. It comes as a topical cream that is applied to oral cold sores or sores.
Some people have rare allergic reactions to penciclovir cream. Tell your doctor if you have allergies or have had a history of reaction to penciclovir. If you develop a rash, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or other serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately.
Valaciclovir is the generic version of the branded drug Valtrex. It is a prescription drug that is available as tablets to be swallowed. It is used to treat both oral and genital herpes symptoms.
Valaciclovir is used to treat the first episode of oral and genital herpes. The drug is also used for repeated episodes of genital herpes and to prevent the risk of future genital herpes outbreaks in adults at risk for multiple episodes. Valaciclovir is also used in some cases to reduce the risk of genital herpes spreading.
Your doctor can give you more information about the best valaciclovir use for your condition, dosage, and effectiveness.
The most common antiviral drugs used to treat herpes simplex symptoms are available by prescription. If you have symptoms such as cold sores or genital herpes, call your doctor’s office. They will first diagnose if you have herpes simplex. Then they will prescribe an appropriate medication to manage your symptoms.
Docosanol only (Abreva) is an antiviral drug that is available as a cream over the counter to treat oral symptoms such as cold sores or cold sores.
If you have mild symptoms of a recurring oral herpes infection, you may be able to use nonprescription methods or some home remedies to manage your symptoms.
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain
- cold compress or ice to relieve burning or itching
- topical zinc oxide cream that may relieve itching or burning sensation
Before trying over-the-counter drugs or supplements, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your symptoms.
It is important to speak to your doctor first before using over-the-counter (OTC) products like docosanol or other home remedies.
If this is the first time you’ve had HSV symptoms with blisters or sores, your doctor will first diagnose whether you have HSV, discuss the type (HSV-1 or HSV-2), and options for treating your condition. They will tell you about prescription and non-prescription alternatives to treat your HSV infection.
Let your doctor know if you have any serious health problems, including a weakened immune system.
Your doctor will also tell you what to expect if you have HSV infection, how long it can last, and what to do to prevent transmission of HSV to others while you have an active infection.
Here are answers to some common questions about the herpes simplex virus.
Is Herpes Curable?
No, there is no cure for herpes simplex. But antiviral drugs and OTC products are effective in treating symptoms of the condition such as lesions and wounds.
After your first episode, the virus becomes inactive and can reappear at any time. Stress, hormonal changes, illness, or exposure to the sun can trigger an outbreak. Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to minimize herpes simplex outbreaks.
Can I buy herpes medication without a prescription?
Most of the antiviral drugs approved for treating HSV symptoms are available by prescription. However, there are OTC options for repeated episodes of oral herpes. Docosanol (Abreva) is an over-the-counter option for treating cold sores. Be sure to speak to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication.
How effective are drugs for herpes?
Prescription antiviral drugs have been shown to be effective in treating HSV symptoms.
Can you transmit herpes while taking medication?
Yes, even if you are taking an antiviral drug, you can infect close direct contacts with herpes simplex (oral or genital contact) while you have sores or blisters. Take steps to avoid sharing personal care products (lip balm, towels, etc.) and mouth and genital contact while you have an active infection.
The herpes simplex virus is a common viral infection. According to
Many people have no symptoms (sores or blisters) of HSV infection, but can transmit the virus through close direct contact (oral or genital).
There is no cure for HSV, but antiviral drugs can help relieve painful symptoms. Most people have mild symptoms that go away within a few days. Your risk of more serious symptoms is higher if you have a weakened immune system.
A doctor can tell you more about the types of HSV infection and all of your treatment options.