Herpes: can it be treated?

Effective therapies for herpes are available to reduce symptoms. You should discuss the value of using therapies such as antiviral agents with your physician.

Here are some suggestions if you have, or think you may have, a first episode of genital herpes:

  • Go to your doctor or clinic as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment will help you to feel substantially better more quickly.
  • Have a trained professional diagnose the problem and confirm the presence of herpes by a virus test taken from the affected area (a culture test with typing is preferred, but a direct antigen test or an electron microscope test is also acceptable). A blood test for syphilis, HIV, and possibly hepatitis B may also be performed.
  • If the pain is severe, you may wish to take a prescription pain reliever.
  • If it is helpful, take very warm showers to run warm water over the area 3 or 4 times a day.
  • When you get out of the shower or bath, blow dry the genital area with a hair dryer. Set the temperature on low or cool.
  • Make sure you are passing urine without difficulty. Try urinating in the shower or tub to decrease the sting. Pouring a glass of warm water over the area may also be helpful. Some people have found that drinking a lot of water (8 glasses a day) dilutes the urine enough that it hurts less.
  • If you cannot pass urine and you've tried several times, wait a couple of hours - even 3 or 4. If there is still no result, you must have medical attention. Not passing urine can lead to serious problems, which are totally preventable. Either visit your own doctor or go to the emergency room of a local hospital.
  • Avoid wearing tight underwear. If possible, do without underwear altogether. Try wearing loose clothes made of pure cotton. When you get home, take a shower or soak in the tub. Leave your clothes off if you can.
  • Talk to your physician about the value to you of using antiviral medications.
  • Avoid (because they may be worse than doing nothing):
    • cortisone cream or ointment
    • antibiotic cream or ointment
    • any cream or ointment that does not contain a useful, specific antiherpes drug
    • petrolatum (e.g., Vaseline)
    • antibiotics (unless you have a clear-cut secondary infection)
    • alcohol (because it stings)
    • ether (because it stings and can catch fire)
    • DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide)
  • Avoid (because they are of no proven benefit):
    • L-lysine
    • BHT
    • idoxuridine (IDU, Stoxil, Herplex-D)
  • If you have your first episode of herpes during pregnancy, tell your physician. Take care of yourself by giving yourself time to heal, treating any other infections, and treating your herpes. Even though you are pregnant, discuss the possibility of medications if you are having a true primary episode.

It is hard to learn and figure out everything all at once, but the answers will come. Your ability to cope and your methods for coping will also evolve. There is no truth to the rumor that stress will make your primary herpes worse. It is very distressing to have primary herpes. Accept the stress for now. Follow the suggestions outlined here to take care of the immediate problem.

What if I am having recurrent herpes?

With recurrent herpes, it is important to fully understand the active phases of infection so you can avoid sore-to-skin contact when necessary. It is also important to use safer sex precautions for the prevention of herpes and all other sexually transmitted diseases. If you are facing issues such as loneliness and the fear of discussing herpes with new partners, keep in mind that these are very common issues and that frustrations can be overcome through a commitment to yourself and to your ability to grow from this experience. In addition, you may wish to have treatment for recurrent herpes. People with recurrent genital herpes now have choices to make regarding antiviral treatment for control of the infection.

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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