Anonymous on October 24, 2011

What is the treatment for herpes?

I’m waiting for my test results...but if it turns out that I have herpes, is there something I can do about it? Is there a cure? What is the treatment for herpes?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on October 24, 2011

You asked some great questions and I’m happy to help you sort through your options for herpes treatments.

First, the good news...

Although herpes isn’t curable, there are many excellent treatments to manage the signs and symptoms of herpes. After testing, if it turns out that you’re positive for herpes, you can talk to a doctor about how to treat your herpes infection. Typically, oral antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex) are used to treat herpes.

Keep in mind that some people with very mild herpes symptoms, or people who don’t have regular outbreaks, may not need any treatment. Others who have more frequent or severe outbreaks have the option of episodic therapy or suppressive therapy:

  • For people who rarely have herpes outbreaks, episodic therapy may be the right choice. With this type of herpes treatment, you take the herpes medication only during an outbreak to reduce discomfort and the length of time you have an outbreak.
  • For people who experience herpes outbreaks regularly, suppressive therapy might be the best option. Why? Instead of only treating an outbreak, it suppresses the virus so that it doesn’t cause an outbreak in the first place. One more benefit of suppressive therapy is that it helps reduce the risk transmitting genital herpes to a sexual partner.


One more thing to remember is that the herpes virus never leaves the body. So, even after treatment, symptoms and signs of herpes can come back. And it’s still be possible to pass the virus to your sexual partner(s). To help prevent the risk of passing genital herpes to others, I encourage you to practice safer sex (e.g., use a condom or dental dam for all sexual activity) and always tell your partner about your infection.. 

You can learn more about herpes treatment options, as well as herpes risks, symptoms, testing and prevention in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2. 

Thanks again for writing, and I wish you the best of health. 

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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