Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. Although the disease is mild, it is still one of the fastest spreading infections in the world.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes in the current medicine literature. Once contracted, a herpes infection stays with the individual for life. However, effective treatments that help reduce the disease's symptoms and help improve the quality of life are available. The same treatment also reduces the risk of transmission to other people. Other than medicinal treatment, prevention is the best solution to keep yourself safe from acquiring an HSV infection.
Although not a definitive cure, the two options to keep an HSV infection at bay – namely, the medicinal treatment and prevention – are highly effective in their purpose. Let's take a closer look at how these modalities can protect you from herpes.
HOW IS AN HSV INFECTION TREATED?
Although modern medicine is highly effective in treating diseases known to man, some conditions cannot be fully treated even with all the scientific prowess of modern medicine. Illnesses like cancer are hard to treat because there is still a lot to uncover about their developmental mechanisms. Similarly, viruses are also hard to treat because of several other variables.
Since herpes is caused by a DNA virus called the herpes simplex virus, it cannot be cured entirely. Like many other STDs, a person lives with the condition for life once they contract an HSV infection. However, despite no cure, there are still effective treatments available that reduce both the symptoms and the risk of transmission in people who have herpes.
Experts believe that a definitive cure can be reached if prompt and effective treatment is started within three days to one week of contracting this virus. It means that initiating treatment as soon as possible virtually eliminates the risk of symptoms ever appearing. However, since many people with herpes don't know about their condition, treatment within such a short time frame becomes almost impossible.
One important thing to note is that anti-viral treatment is not needed in all cases of herpes. This is because not every person experiences the typical symptomatic pattern of herpetic disease. Younger patients who are physically active, do not have any comorbid conditions, and are free of other STDs may never experience a symptomatic period after an HSV infection. Older patients, however, may need highly-focused, aggressive treatment to reduce symptoms and stop the progression of the disease.
The mainline of drugs against HSV infections are anti-viral drugs, fitting because a virus causes herpes. Anti-viral drugs work by limiting the replication of the virus within cells and eliminating free viral particles from the blood to reduce the symptoms and the progression of the disease.
The number of herpetic outbreaks a person experience is related to their viral load, i.e. the number of virus particles inside their bodies. Once the viral load is decreased through anti-viral drugs, a person can expect to have a better quality of life with fewer herpes outbreaks. Decreasing viral load also has another beneficial effect: it reduces the risk of transmission of the virus through sexual or other types of high-risk contact.
The primary anti-viral drug used in the treatment of herpes is Acyclovir. Acyclovir has proved to be very effective in treating herpes and herpetic outbreaks. Other drugs that have been shown to be effective against HSV include Famciclovir and Valacyclovir. These drugs provide relief from painful sores and blisters and correct the unusual discharge from the penis and vagina associated with this condition. Treatment with anti-viral drugs provides suppression of symptoms in up to 80% of the patients, with 30% of patients never experiencing recurring outbreaks in the future.
Topical medicines are also used in the treatment of herpetic outbreaks. These topical ointments are applied once or twice daily, and they help reduce the pain, redness, and itchiness associated with blister and sores formation in herpes infections. These are beneficial drugs because herpetic outbreaks in the oral and genital region can be highly discomforting to the patient and may put them in embarrassing social situations.
HOW TO PREVENT HERPES INFECTION?
The other most helpful method of tackling herpes infections is to prevent acquiring one in the first place. Prevention is the best solution when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases. You can employ multiple methods to protect yourself from acquiring HSV or any other STD-causing agent.
The first and foremost method of prevention is to practice safe sex. Having unprotected sexual intercourse is one of the primary reasons people get infected with HSV and other STDs. Using a condom before engaging in sexual activity with anyone is the best way to protect yourself from acquiring the virus. Remember that condoms are recommended to be used with all types of sex: including oral, vaginal, and anal.
Having multiple sexual partners also puts you at a greater risk of acquiring herpes. If you are frequently involved in sexual intercourse with multiple partners, make sure to use a condom every time and get tested regularly. However, keeping your number of sexual partners as low as possible is a very effective way of making sure that you steer clear of any sexually transmitted diseases.
If you have a partner who has herpes, there are particular measures that you need to take to prevent acquiring HSV from them. Make sure that your partner is taking their daily anti-viral medication. Daily medication reduces their risk of transmitting the disease to you and other people. Always use a new condom before every sexual act with your partner.
Also, make sure to get tested regularly if you live with a partner who has herpes. Get your partner tested for their viral loads and also the presence of other STDs – since having herpes can put you at a greater risk of acquiring numerous other STDs as well.
Ensure that you do not have sex with your partner when they are symptomatic – i.e. during a herpetic outbreak. If your partner has visible blisters and sores, abstain from sex until these blisters disappear. Talk to your doctor about the right time to have sex with your partner who has herpes.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T GET TREATMENT FOR HERPES?
While herpes is an STD with mild physical manifestations, it is still very important to get treatment. Why? Because not getting treatment for herpes can decrease your quality of life in more than one way.
Herpes is mild in its physical manifestations. However, if no treatment is sought for this infection, herpetic outbreaks can occur much more frequently. Moreover, remaining untreated with this infection can increase the risk of transmission to other people by many folds.
There is also a psychological aspect to remaining untreated if you have a herpes infection. The stigma associated with the sexually transmitted disease can be very harmful and deleterious to a person's mental health. When you do not get treated for your STD, you put yourself at a greater risk of experiencing more outbursts and, thus, more stigmatization from the community.
Therefore, getting prompt and effective treatment for herpes ensures that you live a long, healthy life with minimal physical and mental manifestations.
HERPES AND OTHER STDs
It is a commonly known fact that once a person acquires an STD, their immune capabilities decrease to the point where they become vulnerable to numerous other infections. The result is that a person with untreated herpes will experience more outbursts of common cold and other common infections that occur throughout the year.
Not initiating treatment also puts you at a greater risk of acquiring other STDs. This is because having one STD lowers your immune system's capability and puts you at risk of contracting other STDs as well. This is exactly the case with herpes, where if you do not initiate treatment as soon as possible, the infection puts you at risk of acquiring other STDs like HIV, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and other such infections.