M.D. Claiborne & Associates, L.L.C. - Dermatology Specialists
Herpes simplex viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause outbreaks on the skin and mucous membranes, often referred to as “cold sores.” After the initial infection, the virus travels to a nerve cell and becomes dormant. When reactivated by ultraviolet light, emotional stress, surgery, trauma, or hormone level fluctuation, the virus reproduces and travels down the nerve to the skin, where it produces recurring infections.
There is no cure for herpes. Attempts to develop an effective herpes vaccine have not been successful. Treatment for herpes simplex is not necessary because it is self-limiting. Oral antiviral medications like famciclovir (Famvir®), valacyclovir (Valtrex®) and acyclovir (Zovirax®) may be given to treat recurrent episodes or to prevent recurrent outbreaks, especially in patients who experience recurrences every 2 months or less. A topical antiviral cream, penciclovir (Denavir®), and numerous over-the-counter topical remedies are available. Some people respond to lysine, zinc, and vitamin C supplements. Ointments such as Vaseline® or topical antibiotics can relieve discomfort. It is important to keep the area around a sore clean.
Limiting intimate contact minimizes the risk of exposure to the herpes simplex virus. Open discussions with potential sexual partners are important to prevent spreading herpes. Condoms should be used, although they are not always effective because the condom may not completely cover the area of infection. Someone with an active outbreak should avoid sex until all the lesions have crusted over. Measures to prevent infecting infants during birth vary, depending upon whether the mother’s infection is active or dormant.