Genital Herpes Treatment: How to Request an Online Prescription

 

Genital herpes is quite common in Ireland. In 2021, there was a 20% increase in the number of cases reported, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). Despite this, it is not often discussed and so, many people are not aware of what causes the infection, how it’s spread or how it can be managed. Here, we’re going to explain how you can recognise genital herpes symptoms and how to avoid passing it on. We’ll also look into genital herpes treatment and how you can manage outbreaks.

What Is Genital Herpes?

Before we dive into the most common symptoms of genital herpes, it may be helpful to understand what it is and what causes it. Genital herpes is the most common sexually transmitted (STI) worldwide. It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), the same virus that causes cold sores. Just like cold sores, genital herpes is extremely contagious and is typically spread via skin-to-skin contact e.g. kissing, sex (vaginal, anal and oral) and sharing sex toys.  

There are two different types of HSV:

HSV Type 1: This is the most common cause of genital herpes as it can be transmitted from cold sores and oral sex.

HSV Type 2: This type is less common but it is more likely to be associated with recurrent genital infections.

Both types can spread to the face (causing cold sores) or genitals (causing genital herpes) or other areas of the body. It is possible to have both types of this virus.

 

How Is Genital Herpes Passed On?

As mentioned above, genital herpes is extremely contagious and is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the virus. The risk of spreading HPV infection to another person is greatest when symptoms are present (sores or genital lesions). However, those who carry the virus but do not have any symptoms can spread HPV, as the shedding skin will carry the virus and infect another person. In fact, the majority of infections are spread by those with no symptoms (asymptomatic).

You can spread HSV from one place on your body to another. If you touch lesions around your mouth (cold sores), you can carry the virus on your fingers and spread it to your genitals, for example. The virus can be spread to your partner in this way, or during intimate sexual contact, regardless of where the active lesions are located. It is true that cold sore lesions can lead to genital herpes!

 

How to Reduce the Risk of Transmitting Genital Herpes

Herpes lesions are contagious from the moment of the first tingling/itch until they have completely healed. You can reduce the risk of transmitting genital herpes by:

  • Not touching any active lesions or blisters. If you do, ensure you wash your hands.
  • Avoiding intimate contact if you or your partner have cold sore lesions or symptoms to suggest a flare is starting.
  • Avoiding all sexual contact if you or your partner has active genital lesions. This means avoiding vaginal, oral, and anal sex until all blisters have completely healed.
  • Using a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex – even if you are not currently experiencing symptoms. This does not provide complete protection as the condom will only cover the skin of the penis, but it will reduce the risk of getting this virus.
  • Putting a condom on sex toys before use and washing them thoroughly after use. Alternatively, avoid sharing sex toys.

The Most Common Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Now that we have a good understanding of what genital herpes is and how it is transmitted, let’s take a look at the most common symptoms associated with this STI. It’s worth noting that most people will not have any symptoms. This is one of the biggest issues when trying to reduce the risk of spreading/acquiring the infection. When symptoms are present, they include:

  • A tingling, burning or itching sensation around your genitals
  • Small blisters that turn into red, open sores when they burst. You may experience these blisters on your genitals, anus, bottom, or thighs. 
  • Women may also notice unusual vaginal discharge.

If you have become infected with the Herpes Simplex Virus, it can lie dormant for a long time (months or years) before you experience any symptoms. Because of this, it can be difficult to trace where you picked up the infection. If you develop any of these symptoms for the first time, it is essential that you attend your local GP or sexual health/ GUM clinic for an in-person assessment so that the diagnosis can be confirmed. 

A diagnostic swab for typing the virus should be taken. This will confirm if you have type 1 or type 2 HPV and is very useful for future management. The swab does not need to be re-taken during any future flares. You should have screening for other STIs at this time.

 

How Do You Control Your Herpes Outbreaks?

Some symptoms flares may be mild and you might not need any prescription for genital herpes treatment from your doctor. Symptoms often clear up by themselves over time. There are some things that you can do to ease discomfort and aid healing:

For instance, you should:

  • Keep the area clean using plain or salt water. This will help keep the blisters and sores from becoming infected.
  • Soothe pain and inflammation by applying an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel or flannel to the affected area. 
  • Pour water over your genitals whilst urinating to ease the pain. 
  • Apply petroleum jelly (such as vaseline) to the affected area to help reduce pain whilst urinating. 
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after applying cream or jelly.

You should avoid:

  • Putting ice directly on the skin as that can damage the skin and nerves.
  • Touching blisters and sores, unless applying cream or jelly. 
  • Wearing tight clothing that may rub on and irritate the blisters and sores. 
  • Engaging in vaginal, anal or oral sex until the sores/blisters have completely healed. 

How to Reduce The Frequency of Breakout Episodes

Unfortunately, once infected HPV, it is likely that you will experience flares of this infection from time to time. These flares may vary from person to person and usually become less frequent and severe over time. You can reduce the frequency of symptom flares by avoiding things that trigger symptoms. Some of the most common triggers include:

  • Friction in your genital area: to avoid this, avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing and use lubricant during sex
  • Drinking excess alcohol
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Ultraviolet light: try to avoid genital exposure while sunbathing or using sunbeds
  • Fatigue: try to ensure you get adequate good-quality sleep.

There are some other common triggers that may be harder to avoid, such as:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle
  • Surgery to the genital area
  • Being sick or unwell
  • A compromised immune system: this could be the result of taking immunosuppressant medication, receiving chemotherapy or having a chronic illness. 

How Can We Treat Genital Herpes?

Whilst there is currently no cure for herpes, there are treatments for genital herpes available. So, what are herpes medications and how are they used? Antiviral medication can help ease the severity of symptoms and reduce the duration of outbreaks by 1-2 days. This is most effective if taken as soon as possible after the symptoms start, but can be taken up to 5 days after symptom onset. Pain-relieving creams can also help ease discomfort.

Here at Webdoctor.ie, we currently offer prescriptions for two different antiviral genital herpes treatments, Aciclovir and Valaciclovir. We can also provide prescriptions for Instillagel, an anaesthetic gel. 

 

Using Aciclovir as a Genital Herpes Treatment

Aciclovir is an antiviral treatment used for Herpes Simplex Virus. Antiviral treatments work by preventing viruses from multiplying. This reduces the severity of the infection and the duration of the outbreak. 

Aciclovir is available in tablet form and your prescription will be for 5 days of treatment. You should complete the first 3 full days of this genital herpes treatment and if your symptoms have eased, you can stop. If your symptoms persist, you should complete the full 5-day course of treatment. You will need to take two Aciclovir tablets (400mg) twice a day, spacing doses out throughout the day. 

You should start taking Aciclovir as soon as you experience the first signs of an outbreak, such as a tingling or itching sensation. Typically, symptoms and discomfort should start to ease after a couple of days of treatment.

 

How to Use Valaciclovir as a Genital Herpes Treatment

Like Aciclovir, Valaciclovir is an antiviral medication. This genital herpes treatment is available in tablet form and you should take one tablet (500mg) twice a day for 3-5 days. You can take Valaciclovir with or without food and you should spread doses out throughout the day. Just like Aciclovir, you should start taking Valaciclovir as soon as possible after the start of the genital herpes episode for maximum benefit, but within 5 days of symptom onset.

 

Using Instillagel for Genital Herpes

Instillagel is an anaesthetic gel that can be used to ease pain and discomfort. It contains 5% lidocaine and comes in a 6ml syringe. Once applied to the affected area, it works quickly to numb the area. It is worth noting that it will not have any effect on the duration or severity of the symptoms, it simply helps ease the pain.

You should apply a small amount of this gel (1-2mls) to the affected area as needed. We recommend applying the gel using a cotton bud or whilst wearing gloves to reduce direct contact with the lesions and avoid numbing your fingers. You should not use more than one-third of the syringe in 24 hours.

 

How to Order a Prescription for Aciclovir, Valaciclovir and Instillagel

As mentioned above, Webdoctor.ie currently offers prescriptions for these genital herpes treatments. You can request a prescription via our online prescription service. To do this, you will need to fill out a short questionnaire about your symptoms and provide a brief medical history. Then, one of our Irish-registered doctors will review your request to make sure this treatment is suitable for you. Once approved, we will then send your prescription to an Irish pharmacy of your choice via secure Healthmail. 

This prescription service is accessible 24/7 from any phone, laptop or tablet, and it costs just €25. If you have any questions or concerns about these treatments, you can also book an online video consultation with one of our experienced GPs who would be happy to talk you through the treatment options and answer any questions you may have.

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