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Herpes is a common infection resulting from one or both types of the herpes simplex viruses (HSV). Oral herpes affects as much as 80% of the population, while genital herpes affects approximately one in every six adults ages 14 to 49. Herpes currently has no cure, so individuals with HSV will have lifelong infections with risks of future outbreaks.
Will there ever be a cure for herpes? While the progress for a herpes preventative vaccine shows a promising future, an effective cure is far more challenging as the nature of the virus causes the infection to hide and reappear over time.
Because herpes currently has no cure, treatment involves alleviating symptoms and suppressing the virus. Treatments for oral and genital herpes vary. Some patients can begin with simple at-home remedies to relieve discomfort, while others may need suppressive therapy to calm the active outbreak and reduce contagiousness.
A few at-home treatment options for mild cases include the following:
You may also try over-the-counter medications to relieve discomfort for mild cases. A few options include topical pain relievers (like lidocaine), oral pain relievers (like Tylenol), hydrocortisone cream, lysine amino acid ointment, and FemiClear.
These options may work for the occasional cold sore, though for systematic outbreaks or severe symptoms, you will likely need a more aggressive treatment approach, which we’ll discuss below.
Most over-the-counter medications and at-home remedies may improve pain, though they often cannot block an active infection. Without antiviral medications, the virus can multiply and strengthen, causing your outbreak to last longer. For more severe cases, your doctor will likely recommend a prescription treatment to control the outbreak.
The current antiviral drug options for herpes include the following:
These drugs may minimize symptom severity and frequency while reducing your chances of passing the infection. Typically, your doctor will prescribe you an initial treatment course for seven to ten days, often acyclovir in oral or IV form. After your first course, your doctor will place you on an intermittent or suppressive treatment plan, depending on how your infection responds.
Intermittent therapy allows you to keep medication on hand for future outbreaks, when you will take the pills for two to five days until the sores clear up.
Suppressive treatments involve taking antiviral drugs daily to prevent recurring outbreaks. If you have outbreaks frequently, your doctor may recommend this option. Patients with more than six outbreaks per year can reduce their flare-ups by 70% to 80% using this method.
Will there ever be a cure for herpes? What about a vaccine?
The herpes simplex viruses can hide in nerve cells for long periods of time as an asymptomatic infection before randomly reappearing years later.
Because of the nature of the virus, researchers have faced many hurdles while attempting to develop a cure. At the moment, the most promising option is gene therapy, which could take quite some time to develop. Until then, researchers are focusing on effective vaccines to prevent the infection.
Unfortunately, because the herpes virus can live in your body undetected for so long, creating a vaccine against it has also proven difficult. Typically, vaccines work by teaching your immune system how to fight off dangerous infections, but with herpes, your immune system can’t learn anything if it doesn’t know the virus is there.
While clinical trials on animals showed promising results, the human trials yielded unsatisfactory findings. Vaccine candidates in the clinical trials luckily didn’t suffer significant adverse effects, though they also didn’t see the right benefits. Researchers have yet to find a way to develop an effective enough vaccine for full prevention.
Now that you know the answer to “Why is there no cure for herpes yet?” let’s talk about how close we are to developing a vaccine. Researchers are currently studying two types of herpes vaccines: treatment vaccines and preventative vaccines.
Treatment vaccines would help already-infected individuals by improving their symptoms, helping them heal quickly, and reducing the likelihood of spreading to sexual partners. Preventative vaccines would benefit anyone not yet exposed to HSV by training the immune system to fight off the infection.
The current vaccines undergoing research include the following:
None of the above vaccines are available yet. If you notice any symptoms of herpes, you should visit your doctor or order a 10-panel STD test online from Rapid STD Testing so you can begin treatments as soon as possible.
If you receive a positive herpes diagnosis from your rapid STD test, you may feel overwhelmed at first and ask questions like, “Will there ever be a cure for herpes?” While herpes is a lifelong infection (at least for now), it doesn’t have to take over your life.
The World Health Organization estimates that half a billion people across the globe have genital herpes, while several billion live with an active oral herpes infection. You are not alone.
An STI diagnosis can make you feel isolated, but considering the figures above, you know how common the infection is. If you need support, you can visit your local clinic or doctor, find more resources from us here at Rapid STD Testing, or reach out with any questions.
Some of our top tips for coping with herpes and alleviating outbreaks include the following:
Will there ever be a cure for herpes? Maybe, though until then, you can seek treatments to alleviate outbreak symptoms. If you think you may have herpes, order same-day STD testing from Rapid STD Testing or visit a local clinic near you.