Treating herpes

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:49 pm
Though the herpes virus is thought to remain in the body forever once a person is infected, there are several treatments that can ease symptoms and/or reduce future outbreaks. One of the most effective drugs is acyclovir, (ay-SY-kloh-veer) which is available in both pill and topical form. Acyclovir reduces the shedding of the herpes virus, eases pain, shortens the length of an attack, and promotes healing of lesions. It can be used for primary outbreaks of genital herpes as well as recurrences and also diminishes oral herpes symptoms. Two related drugs, famciclovir (fam-SY- kloh-veer) and valacyclovir (val-uh-SY-kloh-veer), are useful in treating recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes. For those who suffer frequent or severe attacks of herpes, a doctor may recommend suppressive therapy, in which oral medication is taken daily. Such therapy can significantly lower the number of episodes and in some people, may halt them altogether, though it won't actually cure the infection. Oral herpes is typically treated with topical ointments containing phenol (FEE-nawl), zinc sulfate, or anti-viral agents like those mentioned previously. To prevent spread of the disease and promote healing, patients with cold sores are advised to keep blisters clean and dry, avoid touching them, and use sunscreen on the lips and face to reduce future outbreaks.

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