Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Sexual conditions health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Genital herpes treatments

Treatment for genital herpes depends on whether there is an outbreak for the first time (primary infection), or a recurrent outbreak.

Treatment may also be used for episodic attacks and suppressive treatment may be given to help prevent or shorten outbreaks.

Primary infection

If you have symptoms such as sores when you are first diagnosed with genital herpes, a doctor or sexual health clinic may recommend a course of  aciclovir antiviral therapy.

Aciclovir helps prevent the herpes virus from multiplying while it is being taken, but no treatment can completely cure genital herpes.

Aciclovir side effects include sickness and headaches. Alternative genital herpes antiviral medication includes famciclovir and valaciclovir.

Recurrent outbreaks

For mild symptoms in a recurring genital herpes outbreak, a doctor or sexual health clinic may recommend some steps to ease the discomfort. These may include:

  • Avoid blisters becoming infected and promote healing using water or salt water to keep the areas clean.
  • Consider using an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the sores to ease pain and promote healing.
  • Use petroleum jelly or anaesthetic cream on blisters to help reduce pain, especially when urinating.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, as the more diluted the urine is, the less painful it will be.
  • Don't wear tight clothes or underwear that may irritate the outbreak.
  • For severe outbreaks, a course of antiviral tablets may be recommended.

Episodic treatment

Episodic treatment with courses of aciclovir may be recommended when fewer than six recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes are experienced in a year. The treatment should begin when the tingling sensations are felt which can appear before an outbreak is noticed.

Suppressive treatment.

When a person has 6 or more genital herpes outbreaks in a year, or for severe or distressing symptoms, long-term aciclovir treatment over 12 months may be recommended in what's called suppressive treatment.

Suppressive treatment reduces the risk of passing on genital herpes to a partner, but doesn't remove the risk, so safe sex is still important.
Suppressive treatment will usually be stopped or reviewed after a year.

If the treatment is not effective, referral to a specialist may be recommended.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on January 10, 2018

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman_holding_head_in_pain
How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
79x79_causes_of_fatigue_and_how_to_fight_it.jpg
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
period_questions_answered
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
girl_sneezing_into_tissue
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
nails
What your nails say about your health