Genital Herpes Treatment

Genital herpes is a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can affect both men and women. It is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV, type 1 and type 2. Herpes is passed between people having vaginal, oral or anal sex without protection, or sharing unclean sex toys. There is no cure, but outbreaks can become less severe over time and there are medicines available to ease the symptoms. Treatment for genital herpes is available to buy on prescription from our online pharmacy. Browse our treatment options below.

Genital Herpes Treatment

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  1. Lidocaine 5% Ointment (15g)
    Lidocaine 5% Ointment (15g)
    From As low as £14.99
    • Local anaesthetic
    • Effective genital herpes treatment
    • Ease of application
  2. Aciclovir 5% cold sore cream - Medicine Direct UK Online Pharmacy
    Aciclovir Cream 5%
    From As low as £4.99
    • Fast acting cold sore cream
    • Highly effective when applied early to a cold sore
    • Kills the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that causes cold sores
  3. Valaciclovir
    Valaciclovir
    From As low as £44.99
    • Used to treat cold sores and the herpes simplex virus (HSV)
    • Can be used to prevent a recurrence of HSV infection
    • Reduces appearance and symptoms within 3 days
  4. Aciclovir Tablets (400mg)
    Aciclovir Tablets (400mg)
    From As low as £18.99
    • Used to treat and prevent recurring outbreaks of Herpes
    • Works by stopping the herpes virus from spreading
    • Helps clear the signs and symptoms of herpes and cold sores

What is Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes, also referred to as just herpes, is a type of STI. It is caused by a virus, called the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Herpes simplex comes in two different forms; HSV1 and HSV 2. Both types infect what is called the mucous membranes of the body, so a place that has a moist lining, such as your mouth or genitals. The seriousness of the outbreak does not vary depending on the type you contract, and neither do the physical symptoms that come with it.

Both types are also highly contagious and are spread by an infected person having unprotected sex, whether that be oral, vaginal or anal sex with another person. A cold sore touching either a male or a female’s genitals can also spread the virus. The sharing of unclean or unprotected sex toys can also spread herpes simplex, as can a finger carrying the infection touching the genitals.

It is important to realise you can still catch the virus if there are no visible blisters or sores. This is because once you have the virus, it lives in your body permanently and becomes a lifelong condition. In most people, it will reoccur around five times in the first two years after infection and then reoccur less frequently from then onward. In some people, symptoms may not appear for months or even years after the first infection.

Genital Herpes Symptoms

You should visit a sexual health clinic if you have any of the following symptoms of genital herpes.

Primary infection symptoms may include:

  • Blisters that are small and eventually burst, leaving open red sores. These blisters may form on your genitals, rectum, bottom and thighs. Once they have healed and scabbed over, these blisters do not leave scars.
  • Pain when urinating
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains
  • Unusual vaginal discharge (women only)
  • Blisters and ulcers on the cervix (women only)

Recurrent infection symptoms may include:

  • The same type of blisters
  • Before blisters, a strange sensation around your genitals or legs that feels like itching, burning or tingling
  • Blisters and ulcers on the cervix (women only)

Some herpes symptoms occur less frequently and less severely over time.

There are two types of outbreaks; the primary infection and the recurrent infection. A primary infection only happens once, the very first time your infection presents itself. This outbreak can last from a few days to 20 days. Symptoms of a recurrent infection are often much shorter and less severe because the body is already primed to attack the infection. All other outbreaks after this are called recurrent infections.

Genital herpes and pregnancy

HSV can lead to complications if you are pregnant, and can be passed to the baby near to the birth. If the primary infection occurred before you became pregnant, the risk to the baby is low. Protective antibodies are passed to the baby during the final months of gestation, meaning the baby will be protected during birth and the months afterwards. Even if genital herpes happens while you are pregnant, the risk is still low for your baby. Your doctor may prescribe you some medicine to reduce the symptoms. If you have blisters or sores during the birth, this increases the chance of passing HSV to the baby by 3%.

Genital herpes and breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding, you are able to take Aciclovir for genital herpes. While it can get into your breast milk, it is not enough to cause any harm to the baby.

Genital Herpes Causes

The herpes virus is called herpes simplex, which is the cause of genital herpes. Once you catch this virus, it stays in your body. While it will not spread and create blisters on other parts of your body, it will stay in a nearby nerve and cause further blisters in the same area.

It is very contagious and can be passed on by various means, including:

  • Sexual contact (skin-on-skin contact with the infected area, either by oral, vaginal or anal sex)
  • If your genitals are touched by a cold sore
  • Sharing sex toys with someone who already has the herpes virus
  • Someone who has the infection on their fingers transferring it to your genitals
  • When blisters or cold sores are not visible

You cannot catch genital herpes from the likes of cutlery, towels or cups; the virus does not survive for long when it loses contact with your skin.

Genital Herpes Diagnosis

A doctor will normally be able to diagnose herpes based on a physical examination.

They may also carry out some tests including:

  • A blood test to check for HSV antibodies, which will show if you have had a herpes infection in the past
  • Viral culture, where they take a tissue sample or scraping from a sore to be examined by a laboratory
  • A PCR test, which involves copying your DNA from a blood sample, spinal fluid or a sore tissue; this determines if you have HSV and what type of strain you have

Once you have been diagnosed, they will be able to give you a prescription for an appropriate genital herpes treatment.

At Medicine Direct, one of our doctors can write you a prescription for an appropriate herpes treatment after an online consultation, where you will describe your symptoms and medical history. You can then order this treatment from our online pharmacy. Order online by 2pm for free next day delivery.

Getting a genital herpes test

Genital herpes does not always present itself as soon as you become infected. In fact, around 80% of people do not know they carry the virus until primary infection, because at first there may be no, or few, symptoms. If you develop blisters or sores, you should get tested immediately.

A herpes test could be done by a swab (cotton bud) taking fluid from the blister. If you don’t have any blisters, a blood test can be done. Some doctors will also be able to diagnose you just by looking at your blisters. Knowing if you have genital herpes will prevent you from spreading the virus to other sexual partners.

Genital Herpes Treatment

The herpes virus stays in your system once you contract it, but there are various medicines available to treat genital herpes during a flare up.

If you have been diagnosed with herpes for the first time, a doctor may give you a prescription for antiviral medication, to stop it from getting worse, and a topical cream for the pain.

Valaciclovir tablets, which can also be spelled Valacyclovir, can be used for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, as can Aciclovir tablets, which can also be spelled Acyclovir. These are antiviral drugs that slow down the spread of the virus to other parts of the body. They also treat the main symptoms of herpes. No medicine can cure the herpes simplex virus permanently.

Genital herpes treatment length

Valaciclovir tablets are a standard dosage of 500mg. These should be taken either once or twice each day, depending on your doctor’s instructions. This medicine can reduce your symptoms in as little as three days, but the exact amount of time you will need to take it for depends on your personalised prescription from a doctor.

Aciclovir tablets from Medicine Direct are 400mg. 200mgs of this medication must be taken five times a day, in four-hour intervals. You may need to take medication over more days if your condition does not improve. Alternatively, you may be prescribed a stronger dose of 400mg at each interval. The usual treatment length is five days, but if your condition does not improve this may need extending.

Side effects

Common side effects of Aciclovir may include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Skin being sensitive to sunlight

Common side effects of Valaciclovir include:

  • Tiredness
  • Concentration problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood changes, such as feeling sad or empty, or irritability
  • Discouragement
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Trouble sleeping

What Medicine Direct can offer for genital herpes

You can purchase a course of tablets to help control the symptoms of herpes from Medicine Direct when you have a prescription. We have currently have two types of online herpes treatments available, which both slow the spreading of the virus to other parts of the body and relieve symptoms. We offer free delivery and discreet packaging, as well as a next day delivery option, so you can start treatment without delay.

Genital Herpes Frequently Asked Questions

How is genital herpes transmitted?

Genital herpes is passed on through skin-on-skin contact with an infected area. This can happen through either oral, vaginal or anal sex.

It can be caught if a cold sore touches your genitals, if you share sex toys with someone who has herpes, or if someone who has herpes transfers it from their fingers to your genitals. There may not be any visible sores or blisters, which means it can sometimes be passed without you being aware of it.

You cannot get it from towels or cutlery as the virus does not survive for long when it is no longer on your skin.

What triggers can cause genital herpes to worsen? 

Certain triggers can cause the virus to come back, including:

  • Being stressed
  • Drinking alcohol excessively
  • Being unwell in general
  • Friction in the affected areas during sexual contact
  • Surgery on your genitals
  • A weak immune system
  • Exposure to ultraviolet light
What medication can I take to treat genital herpes? 

Genital herpes treatment options include Aciclovir or Valaciclovir tablets, which are antiviral medications to slow down the virus.

You can order these from our online pharmacy following an online consultation with a registered doctor. They will give you a prescription for the treatment they deem the most suitable for you.

What is the treatment for a primary genital herpes infection? 

If you experience symptoms of genital herpes for the first time, you should speak to a doctor or go to your local sexual health clinic. You will probably be given a prescription for an antiviral treatment like Aciclovir, which slows down the virus to keep it from spreading. You will normally be instructed to take this medicine for five days, but this may be extended if your symptoms don't improve.

Always follow your doctor's instructions when taking prescription medicine.

What is the treatment of a recurrent genital herpes infection? 

A recurrent genital herpes treatment may include the likes of Aciclovir or Valaciclovir, the dosages will be the same as those to treat the primary infection.

A doctor or nurse may also suggest the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to dilute your urine – this will help to reduce the pain
  • Apply an anaesthetic cream or petroleum jelly to the blisters and sores
  • Wash the affected area with plain or salt water to keep the sores clean, preventing them from becoming infected
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected areas to reduce the pain and speed up the healing process.

Do not apply ice directly to the skin.

If your genital herpes comes back fewer than six times in the same year, you will likely be given a prescription for an episodic treatment.

What treatment is required following more than six recurrent infections within a year? 

If you experience more than six recurrences in the same year, long-term genital herpes treatment may include taking the likes of Aciclovir every day. This is known as a suppressive treatment, which is designed to stop any further flare-ups and stop the virus being spread to a partner. It should be noted that it will not prevent the infection completely.

You may be put on this treatment for up to one year, after which you should only take the medication as required.

Recurrent flare-ups can weaken your immune system, which can be a sign of other viruses, such as HIV. If this happens, you should speak to your doctor about being tested for HIV and other conditions.

How long after treatment can I resume having sex? 

You are advised to avoid having any sexual contact if there are any signs that you may have an outbreak of genital herpes soon, or if you are already exhibiting symptoms. You should avoid sexual activity for one week after your symptoms have completely cleared.

If you have sex while you have symptoms, you not only risk passing it onto your partner, but it will also delay your sores from healing.

Do I need to see a doctor before I can get genital herpes treatments? 

If you are exhibiting genital herpes symptoms, you should seek medical help from either a sexual health clinic or from a doctor. It is most easily and accurately diagnosed during a flare-up.

Your doctor or nurse will normally be able to diagnose the problem by examining the affected areas. They may also screen you for other sexually transmitted diseases.

Which age group most commonly suffers from genital herpes? 

The most common age group to suffer from this infection are those aged 20 to 24.

Is there a cure for genital herpes? 

There is currently no outright cure for genital herpes, but there are various herpes treatment options available on prescription to manage the symptoms when you have a flare-up.

You should abstain from sex until your sores have disappeared and use a condom for added protection when you are not exhibiting any symptoms.

Genital herpes and pregnancy 

HSV can lead to complications if you are pregnant, and can be passed to the baby near to the birth.

If the primary infection occurred before you became pregnant, the risk to the baby is low. Protective antibodies are passed to the baby during the final months of gestation, meaning the baby will be protected during birth and the months afterwards.

Even if genital herpes happens while you are pregnant, the risk is still low for your baby. Your doctor may prescribe you some medicine to reduce the symptoms.

If you have blisters or sores during the birth, this increases the chance of passing HSV to the baby by 3%.

Genital herpes and breastfeeding 

If you are breastfeeding, you are able to take Aciclovir for genital herpes. While it can get into your breast milk, it is not enough to cause any harm to the baby.

Is genital herpes a serious condition? 

Genital herpes is a common problem, recurring four to five times in the two years following the first infection. However, your symptoms will gradually become less severe and flare-ups will not happen as often.

Visit your doctor or have an online consultation with Medicine Direct for a prescription medicine to control your symptoms.

Doctor Notes

Medicine Direct have an experienced clinical team of doctors, pharmacists and dispensers, all of whom are based in the UK. All are fully trained and qualified to provide appropriate and considered care across all areas of treatment we have available at our online pharmacy.

This means that no matter which member of our team is assigned to your case, you can rest assured that you are in the hands of a highly skilled medical professional, who possesses the compassion and clinical expertise to properly advise you on the best course of treatment.

We are fully regulated

All of our doctors and pharmacists are fully registered with both the General Medical Council (GMC), MHRA and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Each member of our team has also worked in various clinic settings in the past, such as community pharmacies and NHS hospitals.

Medicine Direct Superintendent Pharmacist Hussain Abdeh

Hussain Abdeh
MPharm: 2211840


Superintendent Pharmacist

This content has been written by our Superintendent Pharmacist Hussain Abdeh and has been medically reviewed by our Pharmacist Sonia Khan

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