Genital Herpes: The Basics

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What is the treatment for genital herpes?

There is no treatment that can cure genital herpes; the virus will always be in your body. Certain drugs such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir can shorten outbreaks and make them less severe, or stop them from happening. Depending on your needs, your doctor can give you drugs to take right after getting outbreak symptoms or drugs that you can take on a regular basis to try to stop outbreaks from happening. When used along with safe sex practices, Valacyclovir (brand name Valtrex ®) can also help prevent you from passing the infection to someone else. Talk to your doctor about which treatment plan is best for you.

During outbreaks, these steps can speed healing and prevent spreading of the infection to other sites of the body or to other people.

  • Keep the infected area clean and dry.
  • Try not to touch the sores.
  • Wash hands after contact.
  • Avoid sexual contact from the time the symptoms are first noticed until the sores have healed.

Is there a cure for genital herpes?

No. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body and there is a chance that you will have outbreaks. Medicine can shorten and stop outbreaks from happening.

Does genital herpes cause problems during pregnancy?

Yes. If the mother is having her first outbreak while she is pregnant, she is more likely to pass the virus to her baby. If the outbreak is not the first one, the baby's risk of getting the virus is very low. Babies born with herpes may be premature or may die, or they may have brain damage, severe rashes, or eye problems. Doctors may do a C-section to deliver a baby if the mother has herpes lesions near the birth canal to help prevent passing the virus. Also, acyclovir can help babies born with herpes if they are treated right away.

It is not yet known if all genital herpes drugs are safe for pregnant women to take. Some doctors may recommend acyclovir be taken either as a pill or through an IV (a needle into a vein) during pregnancy. Let your doctor know if you have genital herpes, even if you are not having an outbreak. He or she will help you manage it safely during pregnancy.