Herpes simplex is a sexually transmitted viral disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus. Anyone can become infected by the herpes virus through physical contact and the exchange of body fluids with an infected person whether the infected individual is exhibiting the symptoms of herpes or not. There are two types of the herpes simplex virus that are categorized by the part of the body that is infected. The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), or more commonly called oral herpes, is an infection of the mouth or face. The herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2), referred to as genital herpes, is an infection of the genital area and other areas below the waist.
There is presently no cure for the herpes virus, either HSV1 or HSV2. However, there are treatments for herpes that enable people to live normal fulfilling lives by minimizing the severity of the symptoms and sores during an outbreak and reducing the frequency of outbreaks. One of the more commonly prescribed medications in treating patients with the herpes virus is Valtrex.
What is Valtrex used as a treatment for?
Valtrex, generic name Valacyclovir, is an antiviral drug that slows the growth and spread of the herpes virus, helping your body to fight the infection. It is commonly prescribed to treat infections caused by the herpes virus, both oral and genital herpes, cold sores and shingles. While Valtrex stops the growth of these viruses, it is not a cure for these viral infections. Valtrex can reduce the frequency and severity of herpes outbreaks. It helps herpes sores to heal faster and keeps new sores from forming, and decreases the pain and itching associated with the sores both during the outbreak and afterward.
What are the side effects of taking Valtrex?
Your doctor prescribed Valtrex because he believed that the benefits of taking the drug are better than the possible risk of side effects. You should begin taking Valtrex at the first sign of an outbreak for optimum results and continue taking the medicine as directed by your doctor. The side effects, both short term and long term, of taking Valtrex can include any of the following:
Serious Side Effects
- An allergic reaction including difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, or hives
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Red spots on the skin not associated with herpes
- Bloody diarrhea
- Pale or yellowed skin
- Weakness or fainting
- Seizures or convulsions
- Kidney problems such as little or no urination, or painful or difficult urination
- Mental or mood changes such as confusion, difficulty concentrating, aggression or hallucinations
- Pain in the lower back
- Feeling shaky or unsteady
- Problems with speech
- Problems with vision
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst
Less Serious Side Effects
- Stomach pain
- Headaches or dizziness
- Joint pain
- Menstrual pain
- Mild skin rash
- Stuffy nose and sore throat
- Swelling of ankles or feet
- Feeling tired or out of breath
People experiencing any of the serious side effects should stop taking Valtrex right away and call their doctor to report the side effects and determine the best course of action. For a serious allergic reaction, seek emergency medical assistance immediately. For people experiencing only the less serious side effects, continue taking the medication but monitor yourself for continued side effects or the onset of more serious side effects.
Over the long term, Valtrex can be harmful to the kidneys, an effect that can be compounded when used together with other medications that can harm the kidneys. Tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking before beginning a Valtrex treatment. Your doctor can make dosage adjustments or additional tests to ensure that Valtrex can be taken with your other medications. If you have HIV/AIDS or another condition that weakens the immune system, discuss these conditions with your doctor prior to taking Valtrex as well.
How do I reduce the side effects of Valtrex?
To minimize the impact of any side effect, take Valtrex as prescribed and drink a full glass of water with every dose while taking the medication. Drinking plenty of water while taking Valtrex helps keep proper kidney function. Follow the directions that were provided with the medication and take is exactly as described. Do not take Valtrex in larger doses or for a longer period than prescribed.
Keep in mind that even though taking Valtrex may ease the symptoms of herpes sores and outbreaks, it is not a cure and will not prevent passing oral or genital herpes to others. Herpes infections are highly contagious and partners can be infected even while you are taking Valtrex. During an active outbreak, sexual activity should be avoided. At any time, a condom should be used during intercourse to reduce the possibility of spreading the herpes virus to others. Always avoid letting infected areas come into contact with others and avoid touching an infected area yourself.
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