Outbreaks of genital herpes vary depending on the individual and the virus type that causes it. The American Social Health Association notes that those with genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 tend to experience around four or five outbreaks per year, while genital herpes outbreaks caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 occur less frequently–usually less than once a year.
Currently, there are three oral antiviral medications approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration–acyclovir, famcyclovir and valacyclovir–that are proven to shorten herpes outbreaks, as well as reduce their frequency and severity. However, there are different ways your health care professional may choose to administer these medications, based on your symptoms and level of sexual activity.
Things You'll Need
- Oral antiviral medications
See a doctor as soon as you can if you suspect an initial outbreak of genital herpes. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that the sooner you are diagnosed with herpes, the sooner you can begin treatment.
Consider episodic use of oral antiviral medications if you're not sexually active and have few outbreaks or if both you and your partner have genital herpes. Episodic therapy entails taking oral antiviral medications only when you feel an outbreak coming on. ASHA notes that these are generally most successful when started at the onset of prodrome (tingling or pain in the area of the genitals one or two days before an outbreak), but may not make a difference if herpes sores have already erupted. ASHA states that outbreaks may be reduced by around one or two days when episodic therapy is used.
Take oral antivirals daily if herpes outbreaks are frequent and severe, if you have sexual partners that aren't infected with HSV, or if you have genital herpes caused by HSV-2 and your partner has oral herpes caused by HSV-1. According to Mayo Clinic experts, suppressive therapy cuts down the frequency of herpes outbreaks by 70 to 80 percent in those who have six or more outbreaks yearly, and some patients report no herpes symptoms at all. Additionally, ASHA notes that daily use of antivirals can curb asymptomatic shedding of the herpes virus by as much as 94 percent in both men and women.
Resist the urge to use over-the-counter topicals. ASHA states that the best way to help herpes sores heal is to keep the genital area clean and dry. Creams and ointments may slow the healing process and cause herpes outbreaks to last even longer.
Tips & Warnings
- ASHA states that the frequency of herpes outbreaks may be reduced by avoiding stress, getting enough rest, good nutrition, and exercise.
- A popular nutritional supplement bandied about on the Internet is the amino acid lysine. Both ASHA and the Mayo Clinic indicate that studies have shown conflicting results as to the efficacy of lysine in preventing or shortening herpes outbreaks.