Treating herpes virus with Valacyclovir: what should you know?
Many people don’t know what medications they can and should use for herpes infections. In fact, there are a few active substances with proven efficacy, but they can be sold under a variety of names. So how do you know what drug to buy? In this article, we will tell you, in short, everything you need to know about herpes treatment with Valacyclovir.
What drugs are used to treat herpes infection?
There are several medicinal substances sold under a variety of names that are used for herpes virus infections. Their names are Aciclovir, Valacyclovir, Tromantadine, Penciclovir, and Interferon inducers. The most widely used medications or first-line medications due to their efficacy and broad spectrum, i.e., activity against various herpes virus strains, are Aciclovir and Valacyclovir. Aciclovir is mostly known under the trademark Zovirax, while Valacyclovir under the name Valtrex. However, you can buy generic Valacyclovir or Acyclovir at a significantly lower price. In this case, you will get the same drug as the branded one but sold under a different name. To be sure that you are buying the right drug, just look at what’s written right below the trade name. All pharmaceutical manufacturers are obliged to indicate active substances, and most commonly, they print them below the name they market the drug under.
What are the different types of herpes?
Herpes is a virus that can affect different parts of the body and manifest in different forms. There are several varieties of the virus that require different medication dosages and durations of treatment:
- Herpes simplex or herpes labial manifests in cold sores on the lips. It is estimated that nearly 80% of the total world population has this infection. Cold sores usually occur when your immunity is lowered. They start as an itching and tingling sensation on the lips but can also occur on other parts of the face, for instance, cheeks or the inner part of the nose. In a day or two, herpes bursts out in the form of a cold sore consisting of a red spot with small clear bubbles. Without treatment, the symptoms fade within a week or two in normal immunity. In compromised immunity, for example, in AIDS or the use of immune suppressants, they can persist. With the use of antiviral drugs, herpes simplex can disappear within 2-3 days, especially if the treatment is started before the occurrence of visual symptoms.
- Varicella zoster virus or chicken pox is another type of herpes that mostly develops in children and manifests in the occurrence of multiple red itchy pimples throughout the body. Usually, once the disease outburst, a patient never experiences it again. Usually, when treated, the disease lasts for around 7 days.
- Herpes zoster of shingles is a form of zoster virus that mostly develops in people exposed to the virus for the first time in adulthood. It usually affects one side of the body, most commonly the torso, and manifests not only in itching but also in severe nerve pain. Since it is a painful condition, the treatment is started as soon as the first symptom occurs and besides antivirals, such as Valacyclovir, includes painkillers.
- Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that can be transmitted in any type of unprotected intercourse. It manifests in itching and tingling sensations on the genitalia and then the occurrence of clear liquid-filled bubbles that burst out or crust over time. The disease is incurable ad can only be suppressed by antivirals to the point it is not transmissible to other people. People with genital herpes should always have antiviral drugs at hand to start taking them at the first signs of exacerbation to avoid developing severe symptoms and infecting their partners. The best way is to buy Valtrex pills and have them at home in case any itching and tingling occurs.
When should you take anti-herpes drugs?
In the case of cold sores, if you have ever developed one, there is a high chance in any case of lowered immunity that you will have it again. The best way to make it fade quicker is to use Valacyclovir crème or ointment topically at the spot that it tingling and itchy.
If you suffer from genital herpes, you should take Valacyclovir or Acyclovir at the occurrence of the first symptoms to prevent severe symptoms and transmitting the disease to another person. Besides, your doctor may recommend you take the drug periodically as a prophylaxis.
In the case of chicken pox and shingles, consult a doctor first to be sure that the symptoms you have are indeed caused by the viral infection.
How to take Valacyclovir?
Before you buy Valacyclovir, it is better to consult your physician or another healthcare provider on the dosages suitable for your condition and the number of disease outbreaks per year.
The general recommendations on the dosages provided in the package insert are:
- Lip herpes: the medication is taken for one day. The dosage is 4000 mg, split into two intakes – one in the morning and another one in the evening with an interval of 12 hours.
- Genital herpes: 500 mg taken twice a day. If it is the first cold sore you have, the treatment course is 5-10 days. In case of a recurring infection, the treatment course is 3-5 days.
- Shingles (herpes zoster): is treated with 3000 mg split into three 1000 mg intakes. The duration of the treatment course is 7 days unless otherwise prescribed by a doctor.
Valacyclovir can also be used as a prophylaxis for recurring herpes infection in the following dosages:
- Patients with lowered immunity due to HIV, AIDS, or use of immune suppressants should take 1000 mg of Valacyclovir split into two intakes a day.
- People with normal immunity should take 500 mg of Valacyclovir once a day;
Keep in mind that the frequency of prophylaxis courses is selected by a doctor based on your overall health condition and the number of relapses per year. Even if you have just a few relapses in a year, you still need to consult a doctor on how to protect your partner from genital herpes transmission.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Rabeea Aboufakher, MD
(Updated at Oct 4 / 2023)
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