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Herpes Virus

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Herpes is the name for a collection of highly contagious DNA viruses, responsible for causing genital herpes, cold sores and shingles. A herpes infection generally stays in the system once contracted and can cause numerous infections during a person's lifetime. The virus tends to lay dormant in the body's nerve cells for many years and can occasionally become active again, causing painful symptoms and discomfort.

Cold sores and a genital herpes infection are caused by the herpes simplex virus, while shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus. Neither virus can be completely cured, but there are antiviral treatments that can be used to help the body fight the infection and push the virus back into a dormant state. The most common herpes treatments are Aciclovir, Famvir and Valtrex. They can help to reduce the severity and pain of an outbreak, whilst significantly speeding up your recovery time.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 14-01-2024

Available Treatment(s)

Box contains 42 film-coated tablets of Valtrex® 500mg Valaciclovir
Valtrex 4.6(29 Reviews)
  • Works quickly for symptomatic relief from cold sores, genital herpes and shingles
  • Can be taken as a preventative treatment for cold sores and genital herpes
  • Easy to take tablet form
More Info
Famvir 4.3
  • Taken within the first 24 hours of an outbreak to provide the most effective results
  • Can be used to ward off future attacks of genital herpes and cold sores
  • Quickly alleviates uncomfortable symptoms
More Info
The pack contains 25 tablets of Aciclovir 200mg
Aciclovir 4.6(164 Reviews)
  • Effectively treats herpes outbreaks
  • For genital herpes, cold sores and shingles
  • Easy-to-take tablets
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Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a very common and highly infectious sexually transmitted infection that is caused primarily by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). The virus can sporadically cause outbreaks of painful genital herpes symptoms, which include water blisters, red sores and ulcers in and around the genitals, thighs, buttocks and anus. It can be easily passed from one person to the next by coming into direct contact with a person that is displaying active genital herpes symptoms; however, it can also spread through sexual contact even if the infection is not visible.

It is estimated that 80% of people who have a genital herpes infection aren't aware that they have been infected with the virus. Some people may experience symptoms straight away and continue to have regular uncomfortable outbreaks in the first year after they contract the virus.

For more comprehensive information on this condition visit the genital herpes page.

Cold sores

Cold sores are very common, and appear as fluid-filled blisters around the mouth. This infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and most people pick it up as children from coming into contact with people displaying active symptoms. It is unlikely that you'll display symptoms during childhood and most people only start having outbreaks when they reach puberty. It is also possible to contract the virus as an adult through coming in contact with a person that has an infection. Although kissing is the most likely way in which you'll catch the virus, using a person's toothbrush or razor can also place you at risk of catching it.

Adults that get infected display symptoms a few weeks after they contracted the virus. Without treatment, cold sores can take up to two weeks to completely heal and disappear. The virus affects people differently; however, some people may be more susceptible to outbreaks than others.

If you want more information on this infection, visit the cold sores page.


Shingles is a painful rash that appears from time to time in people that have been infected by the herpes zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. People that have had chickenpox can potentially develop shingles later in life. Normally the virus lays dormant for years after the chicken-pox symptoms have disappeared and then becomes reactivated in the body's nerve cells, causing a painful rash.

Not everyone who has had chickenpox will develop shingles and it is not known why some develop a shingles rash and others don't. Unlike cold sores and genital herpes, shingles is not contagious, but a person that hasn't had chickenpox may catch it by coming into direct contact with a person with an active infection.

Visit our shingles page to find out more about this condition.

What herpes treatments are there?

The only way to treat herpes is by using an antiviral treatment to force the infection back into its inactive state. The most used herpes treatments are Aciclovir, Famvir and Valtrex. Each of these treatments can be used to treat genital herpes, cold sores and shingles; however the dosage will vary depending on the condition you want to treat.

A herpes infection should be treated as soon as you notice symptoms, which is why euroClinix offers free overnight courier delivery on all orders of herpes virus medication.

Further reading

Dating with herpes

Dating with herpes

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Whitlow finger signs and symptoms

Whitlow finger signs and symptoms

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
All you need to know about herpes (HSV) testing

All you need to know about herpes (HSV) testing

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
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