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There’s no cure for herpes. But you can take medicine that makes outbreaks shorter and less painful, and can help prevent outbreaks in the future.

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What’s the treatment for herpes?

Even though there’s no cure for herpes, there are plenty of ways to treat the symptoms and manage the infection. Herpes medicine makes outbreaks go away sooner and/or prevents them from coming back as often. Your doctor will tell you about the best treatment options for your situation.

If you’re having an outbreak, your doctor can give you medicine to help heal your sores faster. You can also help ease the pain by:

  • taking a warm bath

  • keeping your genital area dry (moisture makes the sores last longer)

  • wearing soft, loose clothes

  • putting an ice pack on the sores

  • taking a pain reliever like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

How can I prevent herpes outbreaks?

If you have lots of herpes outbreaks, your doctor may tell you to take medicine every day — this is called suppressive therapy. It can help prevent future herpes outbreaks, and lower your chances of giving herpes to your partners.

Whether or not you take medicine to treat herpes, taking care of yourself by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and avoiding stress might help keep future outbreaks from popping up.

No one knows for sure what triggers genital herpes outbreaks. Other infections, surgery, sex, your period, skin irritations, and stress may cause outbreaks. Sunburns, injuries to your lips, or other infections can cause oral herpes flare-ups. Try to avoid getting sunburned if you have oral herpes.

Genital herpes outbreaks usually happen less often and become shorter and weaker after a few years — whether or not you get treated.

What happens if you don’t get herpes treatment?

The good news about herpes is that it’s not deadly or even very dangerous. It might be annoying, but herpes doesn’t get worse over time or cause serious health problems like other STDs can.

If you don’t get treated for herpes, you might keep having regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while.

There are a few reasons people may decide not to get treatment. They might not have that many outbreaks, or their outbreaks don’t really bother them. Or maybe they’re not having sex, so they’re not that worried about having herpes right now. Whatever your situation is, getting treatment for herpes is your choice.

Having herpes can make it easier to get HIV, because the sores give HIV an open pathway into your body. So always use condoms to help prevent the spread of both herpes and HIV.

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