Introduction to Antiviral Medications
Infections caused by Herpes simplex virus are treated with specific antiviral agents called nucleotide analogues. These medications successfully block viral reproduction hence act against the virus and reduce the severity of the infection. Such drugs include acyclovir, Valacyclovir and famciclovir.
Antiviral medications in a topical form are usually prescribed in case of labial herpes while genital herpes requires oral antiviral medications. The best effects are achieved if one starts with antiviral drugs before symptoms and signs of the infection fully develop. It is confirmed that these medications can be very effective and reduce the severity of primary outbreak and accelerate the healing time. Furthermore, they can efficiently reduce pain associated with Herpes virus infection.
The treatment is supposed to start even before the actual sign of the infection develops, during the prodromal stage. This stage features with tingling and painful sensations at the site where typical skin changes will develop. Antiviral medications may be administered until the symptoms completely withdraw. In people who are prone to recurrent outbreaks (particularly those with weak immune system) the doctor may recommend so called suppressive antiviral therapy.
Mechanism of Action and Indications of Antiviral Medications for Herpes Infection
Antiviral agents reduce viral replication. Viral replication includes synthesis of viral DNA. These drugs interfere in DNA synthesis hence they easily prevent reproduction of the virus. The final effect is the overall reduction of viral particles in the body.
Acyclovir is prescribed to patients suffering from initial episodes of genital herpes virus infection as well as those with recurrent infection. The medication is also efficient against herpes zoster and chickenpox. The second antiviral agent, Valacyclovir is administered in case of genital herpes and can suppress recurrent form of the infection. Valacyclovir can also reduce transmission of genital herpes. It is effective against herpes zoster and herpes labialis. And finally, the goal of treatment with famciclovir is suppression of recurrent genital herpes. This antiviral agent is also prescribed in case of acute herpes zoster.
Efficacy and Side Effects
All these drugs are approximately equally effective. It is confirmed that they are safe to use and in rare occasions cause side effects. Patients suffering from genital herpes may benefit more from oral acyclovir than if they take Valacyclovir or famciclovir. Intravenous acyclovir is very effective in people suffering from severe outbreaks of Herpes virus infection.
All the previously mentioned antiviral agents are well-tolerated. There are certain side effects and they include nausea, vomiting, headaches and fatigue. Neurological side effects are tremor and in some cases patients may develop seizures. Patients suffering from kidney problems must be carefully treated and they require lower doses comparing to people whose kidneys are functioning properly. And finally, intravenous acyclovir may cause blood clotting at the injection site.