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If you have been diagnosed with genital herpes, our doctors can prescribe a highly effective genital herpes treatment to manage your condition. We offer aciclovir or valaciclovir for:

Acute therapy: for current outbreaks

Suppressive therapy: (taking a low dose every day), may be suitable for you if you suffer from chronic herpes with frequent outbreaks.

Medication Dosage Course Length Price
Aciclovir 400mg 1 outbreak (15 tablets) £18.99
Aciclovir 400mg 2 outbreaks (30 tablets) £22.99
Aciclovir 400mg 3 outbreaks (45 tablets) £24.99
Aciclovir 400mg Suppression (3 months) £39.99
Valaciclovir 500mg 1 outbreak (10 tablets) £39.99
Valaciclovir 500mg 2 outbreaks (20 tablets) £69.99
Valaciclovir 500mg 3 outbreaks (30 tablets) £89.99
Valaciclovir 500mg Suppression (3 months) £199.99

See more prices

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is an infection caused by the cold sore virus which is called herpes simplex virus or HSV. The symptoms are sores and blisters on and around the genitals. It can be very painful. Because you can get genital herpes by having sex or from intimate sexual contact, it is known as a sexually transmitted infection. HSV can infect any mucus membrane in the body, like the mouth, for example.

Genital herpes is a chronic long term condition. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but it is possible to manage the symptoms using antiviral medicines. Once you get the herpes virus, it stays in your body, lying dormant, before it becomes active again. People often find that they have recurring outbreaks four or five times in the first couple of years after getting infected with HSV. As time goes by, however, most people have fewer outbreaks and the outbreaks become much less severe.

There are two types of genital herpes: herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2. Both are extremely contagious. The virus is passed from person to person by physical contact, like having sex (vaginal, anal or oral). Even if someone with the virus has no symptoms (i.e. he/she is not in the midst of a herpes outbreak), it is still possible for the virus to be passed on. This is known as asymptomatic shedding. Often people carry the virus for a while before an outbreak is triggered.

How does genital herpes treatment work?

Antiviral tablets stop the herpes simplex virus multiplying. Options include aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. Aciclovir is the most commonly prescribed oral herpes treatment. Antivirals won’t get the virus out of your system completely, but they keep it in under control.

After herpes treatment, what should I expect?

Remember that, as long as you keep them clean, the blisters/sores will scab and heal with time. They won’t leave a scar. If this is your first herpes outbreak, you can expect to have four or five outbreaks over the next couple of years. These are known as recurrent outbreaks. They are usually much less severe than the first outbreak. Over time recurrent outbreaks become increasingly infrequent and milder. If you are concerned or distressed, speak to your doctor.

Can I get genital herpes treatment on the NHS?

Yes. You can get herpes treatment at your local sexual health clinic or attend a Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) walk in surgery. These clinics are available for everyone to use confidentially, regardless of age. They are free. Genital herpes treatment such as Aciclovir is prescription-only medication and is not available over the counter.

Statistics

30,338 people attended a sexual health clinic in the UK with a first time infection of genital herpes in 2011.

80% of people with herpes don’t know they’ve got it (because often there are very few symptoms at first).

Genital herpes symptoms:

  • Painful red blisters that burst leaving open sores near your genitals, rectum, thighs and buttocks. Also blisters or ulcers on the cervix
  • A high temperature or fever
  • Pain during urination
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Generally feeling unwell with aches and pains or flu-like symptoms.

The sores will scab and heal with time. They won’t leave a scar.

When the first outbreak clears up, the virus lies dormant in a nerve that’s nearby. A recurrent outbreak of the virus can be triggered at a later date, whereupon the virus travels back down the nerve to the skin.

Most people find that they have recurrent outbreaks four or five times in the first couple of years after getting infected with HSV. Recurrent outbreaks are usually much less severe and will continue to get easier with time. This is because your body has produced antibodies to deal with the first infection and so it is better equipped to fight recurrent infections of the same virus.

The main symptoms of recurrent outbreaks begin with a sensation that itches, burns or tingles near, on or around your genitals, or down your leg, before the blisters come out. Next, sore red blisters will appear around your genitals, rectum, thighs and buttocks. In women, they might also appear on the cervix (neck of the womb).

What causes genital herpes?

Herpes (HSV) is a virus. Whenever HSV is on the skin (and it can be there without symptoms), it can be passed to another person. It is passed between people by direct skin-to-skin contact, including sex.. You can also catch it if you share sex toys (without washing them or covering them with a new condom each time they’re used).

Herpes is very contagious and can pass through the moist lining of your genitals, anus and mouth very easily. An example of this is that if you have oral sex with someone who has a cold sore (a blister/lesion on their mouth that is also caused by the herpes simplex virus), you can get herpes on your genitals.

HSV can’t live for a very long time outside the human body. It’s for this reason that it is thought that you can’t catch herpes by sharing baths or using swimming pools, using a toilet seat, or from sharing plates/cups/cutlery. However, you should avoid sharing towels or flannels just in case. Whilst it is unlikely that the virus could survive this way, this is an extra precaution that you can take for your own peace of mind.

Which types of herpes are there?

There are two types of herpes: herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2. Both can cause genital herpes. The virus is passed from person to person by physical contact. Usually, people get infected with genital herpes by having sex (vaginal, anal or oral). Even if someone has no symptoms, i.e. is not in the midst of a herpes outbreak, they can still pass on the virus. This is known as asymptomatic shedding. That said, it is much easier to catch it from someone who has blisters or sores at that time. Often people carry the virus for a while, before their first outbreak is triggered. After the first outbreak, the virus retreats into your system and stays dormant, until something triggers a recurrent outbreak.

What can trigger an outbreak of the disease?

There isn’t a huge amount known about the causes of recurrent outbreaks, but existing evidence suggests that the following are common triggers:

  • Not feeling well generally
  • Stress
  • Drinking alcohol heavily
  • Being exposed to ultraviolet light – by using sunbeds, for example
  • Having surgery on your genitals or the surrounding area
  • Having a weakened immune system, e.g. as a result of chemotherapy or similar.

Who gets it?

Genital herpes is common, but it is especially common in young people who are aged 20-24 years.

Anyone can catch it. Whenever HSV is on the skin (and it can be there without symptoms), it can be passed to another person. It is passed between people by direct skin-to-skin contact, including sex. You can also catch it if you share sex toys (without washing them or covering them with a new condom each time they’re used).

However, you are at a higher risk of getting herpes if: you have had a sexually transmitted infection in the past, if you started having sex young, if you have had sex that was unprotected with many partners.

How is it diagnosed?

Wherever possible, it is better to get any symptoms of genital herpes checked at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic/sexual health clinic. If you can’t get to a GUM clinic, then see your GP.

It is easier for your GUM specialists to diagnose genital herpes, whilst you’ve got the blisters or sores. They’ll do a swab test (where they wipe a small cotton bud on one of the blisters to collect fluid from it). Whilst it is easier to test for herpes when the infection is active, sometimes the test can still be negative, even though you have all the symptoms. For this reason, the GUM specialist will also examine you and make a diagnosis based on what they see. If they are unsure and if the test is also negative, then you may have to wait to see if you have a recurrent outbreak to confirm whether the diagnosis should be herpes.

At the GUM clinic, you will probably be asked: if you have had sexually transmitted infections in the past; about the history of who you’ve had sex with; whether you get cold sores; and whether or not this is the first time you’ve had these symptoms.

How do I treat it and what are the main herpes treatment options?

The treatment for herpes is slightly different for the first outbreak and any subsequent outbreaks. The first time that you have a herpes outbreak , your sexual health clinic can prescribe antiviral tablets, such as aciclovir, to stop the herpes simplex virus multiplying. This oral genital herpes treatment won’t get the virus out of your system completely, but it can control it.

For recurrent outbreaks, speak to your GP, because your treatment plan will depend on the severity and frequency of the outbreaks. If you have fewer than 6 recurrent outbreaks a year, but these are severe, your doctor may well prescribe a five day course of aciclovir (or another antiviral) each time you have an outbreak. This is called episodic treatment.

If you have six or more recurrent outbreaks a year: you may need to take aciclovir (or another antiviral) daily on an ongoing basis as part of a treatment plan. This is suppressive treatment – it aims to stop outbreaks happening at all.

There are also a few things that you can try at home, to make yourself a bit more comfortable:

  • Keep the blisters/sores clean with water or salt water. This will help it to heal quicker and will prevent the areas where you have blisters from sticking together.
  • Put cold, wet teabags or an ice pack that is wrapped in a cloth over the sores. This ought to soothe the pain. Make sure you don’t put ice directly onto the sores.
  • Put Vaseline or petroleum jelly over the sores – this will reduce the pain that you experience when you urinate. You can also reduce this pain by drinking a lot of fluids to dilute your urine. If this is a problem for you, you can also try urinating whilst sitting in a bath of water or tipping water over your genitals whilst you urinate.
  • Try not to wear tight clothing because this can aggravate the blisters.

If you are still extremely uncomfortable, your doctor can also prescribe a lidocaine gel that you can use to numb the pain in the affected area.

What are the long term issues?

Genital herpes is itself a chronic long term condition. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but it is possible to manage the symptoms using antiviral medicines. If the herpes blisters get infected, they can result in a skin infection elsewhere in your body. If you are suffering recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes, it is wise to get tested for HIV. Severe and frequent outbreaks of genital herpes can be a sign of a weak immune system.

If you have HIV or aids, or if you are undergoing chemotherapy, or if you have a weakened immune system, you should be referred to a specialist for treatment. Herpes can last longer and be more severe in people with weak immune systems.

Herpes can cause problems in pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, make sure you get referred to a specialist. The infection could pass to your unborn baby and it can be serious.

Should I tell my sexual partner(s)?

Yes, you need to let your sexual partners know so that they can get tested. If you don’t feel comfortable contacting them yourself, your sexual health clinic can contact them for you. They can send them a contact slip suggesting that they might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection and recommending that they go for a check up. Your name won’t be on the slip, although sometimes it states which infection they might have picked up.

You should also tell new partners that you have herpes. You can pass on the herpes virus, even if you do not have symptoms, so it is very important to use condoms to minimise the risk of spreading the infection when having any kind of sex (oral, vaginal or anal). It is worth bearing in mind though, that it is still possible to pass on the virus during sex, even if you use condoms. The condom only covers the penis and the herpes virus can appear elsewhere (around, as well as on, the genitals, for example). For this reason, condoms just reduce the risk. They will not prevent the virus from spreading completely. Your partner needs to be aware of this.

When can I have sex again?

Don’t have sex until all the blisters and sores have completely healed and cleared up.

If you have sex whilst you’ve got the sores, you are very likely to pass on the virus. Herpes is extremely contagious, even from the point that you feel the first tingle/itch, before you get any blisters.

Don’t share sex toys (unless you wash them and cover them with a condom in between usage). Also, if you have/your partner has a cold sore by your/their mouth, avoid kissing until this has cleared up.

Don’t have oral sex whilst one of you has a cold sore. This is one of the ways you can get genital herpes.

Will it affect my fertility?

No. Genital herpes does not affect fertility in men or women.

Herpes can cause problems in pregnancy though. If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, make sure you get referred to a specialist. The infection could pass to your unborn baby and it can be serious.

Genital Herpes Treatment Options - how effective are they?

The first time that you have a herpes outbreak , your sexual health clinic can prescribe antiviral tablets, to stop the herpes simplex virus multiplying. Antiviral drugs that can be used to manage herpes simplex include:

  • Aciclovir
  • Famciclovir
  • Valaciclovir

Aciclovir is the most commonly prescribed antiviral for herpes. You’ll need to take aciclovir five times a day, for at least five days, perhaps longer if you are still getting new blisters when you begin the course of treatment. It won’t get the virus out of your system completely, but it can control it. When you stop taking aciclovir, it will stop having an effect.

Valaciclovir is known as a pro-drug. It is very similar to aciclovir. After you take Valaciclovir, your body converts it into aciclovir. It has the same effect, but you don’t need to remember to take valaciclovir as frequently as aciclovir.

For recurrent outbreaks, speak to your GP, because your treatment plan will depend on the severity and frequency of the outbreaks.

If you have fewer than 6 recurrent outbreaks a year, but these are severe: your doctor may well prescribe a five day course of aciclovir (or another antiviral) each time you have an outbreak. This is called episodic treatment.

If you have six or more recurrent outbreaks a year: you may need to take aciclovir (or another antiviral) daily on an ongoing basis as part of a treatment plan. This is suppressive treatment – it aims to stop outbreaks happening at all.

Usually for suppressive treatment, you take aciclovir twice daily for 6-12 months (or another antiviral as prescribed). This is also the case for people with very severe symptoms or for people who find their symptoms extremely distressing. It makes it less likely that you will pass HSV on to your partner (although it does not prevent this completely). Normally, suppressive treatment would stop after a year because, by that point, the risk of outbreaks is less frequent and the outbreaks themselves will be considerably milder. Most people manage to control any subsequent outbreaks using episodic treatment (a five day course of aciclovir), but if the severe outbreaks come back repeatedly, you can speak to your doctor about returning to a suppressive treatment plan.

Side Effects

Aciclovir can cause some side effects like headaches and feeling sick, diarrhoea, dizziness, itchiness/rashes, tummy pain, fatigue. Always read the patient information leaflet.

Your doctor may not wish to prescribe Aciclovir for you if, in the past, you have had any trouble or allergic reactions to valaciclovir , other medicines or ingredients in this medicine; or if you are dehydrated, elderly, immunocompromised, or if you have kidney problems.

Drink plenty of water when taking this medicine.

These medicines and types of medicines can interact with Aciclovir:

  • Cimetidine;
  • mycophenolate mofetil;
  • probenecid;
  • immunosuppressant medicines.

Valaciclovir can cause some side effects like headaches, feeling and being sick, diarrhoea, dizziness, itchiness or rashes. Always read the patient information leaflet.

Your doctor may not wish to prescribe Valaciclovir for you if, in the past, you have had any trouble or allergic reactions to aciclovir, other medicines or ingredients in this medicine; or if you are elderly, on haemodialysis, or if you have liver or kidney problems.

These medicines and types of medicines can interact with Valaciclovir:

  • ciclosporin
  • cimetidine
  • foscarnet
  • methotrexate
  • mycophenolate mofetil
  • pentamidine
  • probenecid
  • tacrolimus
  • tenofovir
  • aminoglycosides
  • iodinated contrast media
  • medicines that affect kidney function
  • organoplatinum compounds

Drug name

 

Aciclovir

Valtrex

Active Ingredient

Aciclovir

Valaciclovir

Considerations

The two drugs are very similar. After you take Valaciclovir, your body converts it into aciclovir. It has the same effect, but you don’t need to remember to take valaciclovir as frequently as aciclovir.

Risks

Your doctor may not wish to prescribe Aciclovir for you if, in the past, you have had any trouble or allergic reactions to valaciclovir, other medicines or ingredients in this medicine; or if you are dehydrated, elderly, immunocompromised, or if you have kidney problems.

 

Drink plenty of water when taking this medicine.

 

These medicines and types of medicines can interact with Aciclovir:

  • Cimetidine;

  • mycophenolate mofetil;

  • probenecid;

  • immunosuppressant medicines

 

Your doctor may not wish to prescribe Valaciclovir for you if, in the past, you have had any trouble or allergic reactions to aciclovir, other medicines or ingredients in this medicine; or if you are elderly, on haemodialysis, or if you have liver or kidney problems.

 

These medicines and types of medicines can interact with Valaciclovir:

  • ciclosporin

  • cimetidine

  • foscarnet

  • methotrexate

  • mycophenolate mofetil

  • pentamidine

  • probenecid

  • tacrolimus

  • tenofovir

  • aminoglycosides

  • iodinated contrast media

  • medicines that affect kidney function

  • organoplatinum compound

 

Side effects

Headaches and feeling sick, diarrhoea, dizziness, itchiness/rashes, tummy pain, fatigue.

 

 

Headaches, feeling and being sick, diarrhoea, dizziness, itchiness or rashes.

If you have a question about this service, please email info@dred.com with the question, and one of our doctors will get back to you within 24 hours.

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