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Herpes Suppressive Therapy: Six Things to Know

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Want to know more about herpes suppressive therapy? There is not as yet a cure for herpes, but it can be treated with ongoing medication, usually with either acyclovir (also known as Zovirax), famciclovir (also known as Famvir), or valacyclovir (also known as Valtrex). Depending on the severity of your case and after your initial treatment, your doctor may prescribe one of two methods for managing herpes.

About Herpes Suppressive Therapy

  • Intermittent treatment means you take the prescribed drug when you experience a flare up to lessen the symptoms and cause the sores disappear more quickly.
  • The second option is herpes suppressive therapy.

Herpes Suppressive Therapy - Valtrex Valocyclovir Acyclovir Zovirax Antivirals

With the suppressive method, a prescribed medication such as Valtrex is taken every day to prevent future occurrences. With that in mind, here are all the basic facts about herpes suppressive therapy effectiveness, cost, transmission rates, dosage, side effects and pregnancy. Together with your doctor you can create a plan for your health.

Herpes Suppressive Therapy Effectiveness

For those who suffer from frequent outbreaks that interfere with their day to day life, herpes suppressive therapy is optimal because it usually reduces outbreaks by seventy to eighty percent and in some cases it can completely eliminate them altogether. One study discovered that people who had twelve outbreaks per year reduced occurrences to less than two per year after undergoing herpes suppressive therapy for twelve months. Studies also show outbreaks that do occur are milder and shorter than they were before treatment.

Suppressive Therapy Cost

The cost for herpes suppressive therapy depends on your area, the brand and dosage of medication prescribed by your doctor, the pharmacy you go to and your insurance plan. Generic brands are cheaper than name brands. With insurance you will probably pay about thirty dollars per month. Without insurance, you could be paying twice that or more. Valocyclovir is more expensive than Acyclovir, but the plus side is that you have to take fewer pills. However, many users of Valtrex say that the peace of mind is worth the money.

Suppressive Therapy & Transmission Rates

Taking precautions such as using condoms, taking medications such as Valtrex and abstaining from sex during outbreaks can reduce the chances of herpes being transmitted to your partner. Women have more exposed soft tissue than men do and because of these differences in genitalia, it is easier for a man to pass herpes to a woman than the other way around.

Studies by Valtrex indicate that yearly transmission rates for those who avoid sex completely during flare-ups is 4% transmission rate from woman to man and 8% from man to woman. Using condoms OR medication reduces the risk of transmission to 2% from woman to man and 4% from man to woman. Using condoms AND medication reduces the rate of transmission to 1% from woman to man and 2% from man to woman.

Herpes Suppressive Therapy Dosage

Valtrex can be taken at any time of day without or without food. For herpes suppressive therapy, the recommended Valtrex dose for adult patients with normal immune systems is one gram taken every day. Patients who have experienced less than nine flare-ups per year and those who are HIV positive may only need to take 500 mg per day.

Suppressive Therapy Side Effects

Side effects of any drug can be a concern, however herpes suppressive therapy is considered safe in the long run and side effects are mild. Common side effects of Valtrex include headaches, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and some people also report dehydration, itching and slight disorientation.

Less than one percent of patients may experience agitation, arthralgia, abdominal pain, confusion constipation, dizziness, edema, rash, renal impairment, sore throat, vertigo and/or weakness. Less than one patient out of a thousand experiences severe symptoms such as ataxia, anaphylaxis, loss of appetite, coma, crystalluria, encephalopathy, fatigue, hepatitis, leukopenia, neutropenia, psychotic symptoms, seizures, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, or tremors.

Stop taking Valtrex and talk to your doctor immediately if you experience side effects such as bloody diarrhea, easy bruising, fainting, fever, red spots unrelated to herpes or chicken pox, urinating less than usual or not at all or weakness. Call your doctor right away if you experience aggression, drowsiness, hallucinations, increased thirst, lower back pain, mood changes, no appetite, seizures, shakiness, swelling or weight gain.

Herpes Suppressive Therapy During Pregnancy

Herpes suppressive therapy is not necessarily recommended during pregnancy, but as a category B medication, there are as yet no known risks undergoing herpes suppressive therapy while pregnant or breastfeeding. In fact, sometimes your doctor will prescribe Valtrex during the last four weeks of pregnancy to prevent an outbreak, especially if this is the first occurrence ever. Taking Valtrex for the last month or so should prevent the possibility transmitting herpes to the baby during labor. That being said, while Valtrex may be administered to prevent an outbreak during labor, your doctor will probably not recommend herpes suppressive therapy to pregnant women during the entire pregnancy unless the total benefits outweigh the possible risks.

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