Genital Herpes

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Genital herpes is a life-long sexually transmitted disease (STD) that causes blisters on the genitals and the surrounding area, which then heal again and this process repeats. Herpes is a virus that is spread through unprotected sexual intercourse; the virus permanently remains in the body. The initial outbreak is usually the worst, with recurrent outbreaks causing milder symptoms in comparison. Some people never experience herpes symptoms despite having the virus, as the virus can remain dormant for a long time. Genital herpes cannot be cured or treated with antibiotics, however antiviral medications can effectively control the symptoms.


Genital herpes is caused by infection with the HSV2 virus, which is spread through unprotected sexual intercourse or other skin-to-skin contact. Outbreaks of the symptoms can be triggered by factors such as a weakened immune system, a poor diet, stress, exposure to ultraviolet light (from sunbeds) and friction around the genitalia.




Aciclovir is an antiviral medication that prevents herpes infections from multiplying. This medication works to decrease the severity and duration of genital herpes outbreaks. Most benefits of this treatment are experienced if taken as soon as the first symptoms appear. Aciclovir can also be taken to prevent outbreaks in people that suffer from recurrent outbreaks.


Start taking aciclovir as soon as possible after your symptoms begin. Swallow the tablet whole with a glass of water, with or without food, three times a day for 5 days. When used to prevent genital herpes outbreaks, the tablet should be taken twice daily for up to 12 months.


How long does it take for Aciclovir tablets to work?

Aciclovir starts working immediately after taking the tablet and is most effective if taken within 48 hours of initial symptom onset.

What is the difference between Aciclovir and Acyclovir?

The only difference is the spelling. Aciclovir and Acyclovir are different names for the same antiviral medication. Aciclovir is the British English spelling, and Acyclovir is the American English spelling.

Can I buy Aciclovir tablets over the counter?

No. All strengths of the aciclovir tablets (200mg, 400mg and 800mg) are only available on prescription in the UK. You can purchase aciclovir tablets through the ashcroft pharmacy following an online consultation. However, aciclovir cream is available over the counter under the brand name Zovirax.

Do I need to tell my partner?

Herpes is a highly contagious disease, which is transmitted through skin on skin contact with affected areas during an outbreak. However it is still possible to spread the virus even when no symptoms are showing. Therefore, you should always be honest about your sexual history with your partner in order to prevent transmission of the virus. Always wearing a condom and not having sex during active outbreaks will minimise the risk of spreading the virus.

Side Effects:

●     Nausea

●     Headache

●     Abdominal pain

●     Diarrhoea

●     Fatigue

●     Dizziness

●     Skin rashes

Patient Information Leaflet (from EMC):


●      Cracked, raw or red areas around genitals

●      Itching around genitals and anal region

●      Small blisters that burst and cause painful sores around your genitals, rectum, thighs and buttocks

●      Pain from urine passing over the sores - more of a problem in women

●      Flu-like symptoms - fever, aches and generally feeling unwell.


How do you get infected with Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes is contracted by direct contact with the HSV virus via any kind of unprotected sex, including oral sex with someone who gets cold sores. Cold sores are a symptom of HSV infection. An infected person can still transmit the virus even when they have no symptoms, the risk is reduced by using a condom. Women with recurrent herpes before pregnancy are at low risk of transmitting the infection to their babies. The greatest risk to babies is if the mother is experiencing their first outbreak of herpes around the time of delivery.

How long does Genital Herpes Last?

Outbreaks can occur repeatedly in a year with symptoms lasting up to 20 days. Prescription treatment is recommended to reduce the frequency and duration of outbreaks.

How do you treat the first outbreak of Genital Herpes?

Antiviral genital herpes medication for five days is recommended to treat the initial outbreak of herpes. This can be repeated for another five days to clear the symptoms if necessary. The earlier the treatment is taken, the faster the symptoms can be cleared.

What should I do if I get another Genital Herpes outbreak?

Outbreaks can be treated with antiviral medication. Warning signs associated with the onset of an outbreak consist of tingling, burning or itching around the genitals, in which case you should prepare for an outbreak and seek antiviral medication to treat the outbreak as soon as possible. Antiviral medication should be taken for five days to clear the outbreak. If outbreaks return frequently, suppression treatment may be more suitable.

What is suppression treatment?

Suppression treatment reduces the chance of outbreaks occurring. This involves taking a daily dose of antiviral medication for three months to prevent the virus replicating in the body. Suppression treatment should be considered if regular genital herpes outbreaks are experienced.