Herpes is a virus, and therefore the medicines used to treat it are antiviral in nature. In many cases, patients must take daily doses to keep the disease under control. The choice of herpes medication should be made only after consultation with a doctor. In addition to effectiveness, other things to consider are the costs and side effects. When taking medicine daily, these two areas are of great concern.
Herpes medication is usually given in pill form. The most common products to treat herpes are: acyclovir, famciclover, and valacyclovir. The brand names for these products are, in order, Zovirax®, Famvir®, and Valtrex®. Acyclovir must usually be taken more often than the two others, simply because the rate of absorption is less favorable than the others. Generics, if available, may present a cheaper option.
For some patients, medication is taken only during outbreaks. This helps keep the costs down, as well as the risk of side effects. For those who have more frequent outbreaks, usually six or more times a year, a more aggressive treatment plan may be prescribed. This would involve using the medication even when there is no outbreak present.
No herpes medication can provide a cure for the disease. Rather, all of these medications work to lessen the severity and the duration of the outbreaks. These medications will also help with the discomfort that often comes with the outbreaks, including soreness and burning sensations. Further, an outbreak represents the time when an individual is the most contagious. Therefore, getting over the outbreak quickly is in the best interest of the infected person and his or her partner.
No matter which type of medication is chosen, it is best to start the treatment as soon as symptoms are noticed, assuming a more proactive treatment is not already prescribed. Once the outbreak gets started, it will take longer to calm it down. Herpes outbreaks can be very unpredictable. This is why patients need to make sure that medicine is on hand, even when there are not any symptoms present.
Common side effects of herpes medication include headache, nausea, joint pain, stomach or abdominal pain, and even diarrhea or constipation. Kidney problems represent the most serious side effect, but this usually only happens with prolonged exposure. Those experiencing side effects should consult their physician. They may be diminished or completely eliminated by switching to a different anti-viral drug.