Shingles is a form of herpes also.
Some people feel that herpes is something horrible, others just consider it a pesky skin condition. I guess it depends on where your outbreak occurs. Some people get genital herpes right on their genitalia, others on their butt cheeks, and you can get it on your face. You can have oral herpes (HSV1) on the genitals, too. I assume you know where your outbreak occurs and how often.
A close friend of mine has HSV2 and I spent many nights talking with him about it and helping him find info on it. But he did some fantastic research on his own. I will share what I remember...
Once exposed to the virus, it lives in the spinal nerves. The virus is considered latent while hiding out in the spinal column, but can still become active, usually during times of stress. When an outbreak happens, the virus replicates and travels through the nerves to the skin. The outbreak will always stay localized to the area of the skin that is "served" by the nerves it lodges in (that region is called a dermatone). So, there is no reason to worry about it spreading elsewhere on your body. Some studies have shown that having HSV2 might offer a little resistance to getting HSV1, but apparently there's a lot of debate about that.
HSV can also "shed" its "particles" (and make it possible to infect someone) without any obvious symptoms. Suppressive therapy with a drug called Valtrex, or its generics acyclovir or valacyclovir, is supposed to be very helpful. It prevents outbreaks and suppresses asymptomatic shedding of the virus. It can be taken once a day (this is what my friend does). This family of drugs inhibits viral replication (and therefore shedding) by providing phony DNA building blocks. The virus needs the DNA building block to replicate, grabs the drug's molecule, and is fooled by it. When it goes to attach the next molecule in order to replicate and create a chain that leads to the skin, it can’t find where it’s supposed to attach. The drug doesn’t provide the right attachment for it. Hence, no outbreak or shedding.
Apparently, the drugs in this family seem to work a little differently for different people. So someone he knows had to switch to Valtrex, but my friend found valacyclovir to work really well for him and he doesn't have outbreaks anymore. He also takes supplements like Lysine and herbs to support his immune system. It seems that the reason outbreaks happen during times of stress is because stress affects our immune systems. So, if you strengthen and support your immune system, it can help prevent the herpes virus from finding a "reason" to show up again. Your doctor should be willing to work with you on finding the right suppressive drug for you. My friend says there are no side effects.
Of course, it's still important to use barrier protection during sex, even if you are taking drugs for it.
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Last edited by nycindie; 11-01-2011 at 03:08 PM.