Acyclovir (Zovirax)

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What is Acyclovir (Zovirax)?

Acyclovir, a name of a medication often used to cure or treat virus infections, is a generic form of Zovirax. It prevents viruses from multiplying after division. It’s a synthetic nucleoside analogues, but it cannot treat all virus infections.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves of acyclovir, in the 1980s to be more precise. Acyclovir is a generic that is made by various companies, or it can be found under the brand name of Zovirax. Zovirax is made by GlaxoSmithKline. It comes in capsule, liquid, and tablet form.

It’s FDA approved to treat viral infections from varicella. This virus is the same one that causes chicken pox as well as shingles. It can also causes infection from the virus, curing some cases of genital herpes. Often a doctor will prescribe this medication to treat a herpes virus infection, usually in people that carry HIV.

It’s the oldest drug that has been used to treat herpes simplex viruses, and acyclovir remains the first line of treatment for such infections. However, acyclovir has been proven not to be as effective as it once was. “Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases” in 2013 published a study about acyclovir-resistant herpes strains developing over time. It can even happen with people who have a healthy immune system as well as a weak one.

What Are the Main Things I Need to Learn About Acyclovir (Zovirax)?

Acyclovir does not cause viral infections. Infections can even become shorter in lifespan or even less serious for some who take acyclovir.

If taking it for genital herpes, it may reduce the severity. It may also prevent recurrences of outbreaks.

If taking for chicken pox or shingles, usually acyclovir will reduce the severity of the infection. Shingles, a painful rash, develops after many years after you’ve already contracted chicken pox if the virus has reactivated. Acyclovir has been used to decrease the pain.

After the rash appears, treatment will work best if acyclovir is taken as soon as possible. Usually within three days of shingles and within 24 hours of contracting chicken pox is best. Younger children that are healthy may not need to be treated, but older children or adults do.

It’s wise to drink a lot of fluids when taking this particular medication. Acyclovir should not be taken by anyone under two years of age.

Is There Anything I Should Discuss With My Doctor Before I Start Taking Acyclovir (Zovirax)?

Let your doctor know if you are allergic to any medications. Acyclovir does come with side effects, and these can interfere with medications and cause new problems.

  • For women, you should let your doctor know if you are or even may be pregnant. Also let them know if you’re breastfeeding. Acyclovir has not been studied when used on pregnant women, so it is not deemed safe to take during a pregnancy with current evidence. Also, acyclovir may pass into breast milk.
  • Let your doctor know about all vitamins, supplements, and medications you may be taking.
  • Be cautious when using acyclovir if suffer from kidney disease or other weaknesses to your immune system. If you possess one of these conditions, more serious reactions can occur.
  • Ask for advice from your doctor on practicing safe sex if you have a herpes genital infection. This disease spreads from sexual activity, and acyclovir alone may not be able to prevent it.

Side Effects of Acyclovir (Zovirax)

Common side effects that develop after acyclovir treatment for genital herpes include vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. If you have shingles, it requires treatment with a higher does. Common side effects that develop after acyclovir treatment for shines include tiredness and malaise.

Contact your doctor at the first occurrence of these side effects. Possible side effects of acyclovir include:

  • Vomiting
  • Visual changes
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Headache
  • Hair loss
  • Fluid retention
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Changes in behavior

Serious side effects often occur if not monitored. If any of these side effects appear, call your doctor immediately.

  • Decreased urine output or blood in the urine
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme sleepiness or confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Severe rash, hives, or a rash that causes blisters and peeling
  • Swelling of face, lips, or tongue
  • Tingling, numbness, or shakiness
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes

Age can also be a factor, such as the case with anyone who is over 65. More side effects may occur with age and the use of acyclovir because older people’s kidneys will not filter the drug as quickly.

Acyclovir (Zovirax) and its Interactions

Acyclovir can be affected by other drugs, and it would affect how the medication works. It can also affect other drugs that you may be taking. Make sure your doctor is aware of every drug that you are currently taking, and this includes over-the-counter medication, supplements or herbs.

Some drugs will interact with acyclovir. Some are:

  • Medications used to treat fungal or bacterial infections will react. This includes amphotericin B (Fungizone) and many antibiotics such as amikacin (Amikin), tobramycin (Tobi, Nebcin), gentamicin (Garamycin), and kanamycin (Kantrex)
  • Aleve, Motrin, Advil and other over-the-counter pain relievers will react
  • If a medication is used to treat either Aids or HIV, such as zidoyudine (Retrovir, AZT), it will most likely interact.

Should I Avoid Any Drink, Food, or various Activities While Taking Acyclovir (Zovirax)?

Your diet or activities do not need to be changed just because you are taking acyclovir. Keeping hydrated is important though, so make sure to drink plenty of water while taking this medication.

Acyclovir (Zovirax) Dosage

Dosage depends on the reason it’s being taken. Acyclovir (Zovirax) can be taken in either tablet, capsule, or liquid form. This medication can be taken with our without food. Anyone with kidney disease or who is elderly, will usually be prescribed a lower dose.

Common dosages:

  • For treating chicken pox in adults and children who weigh more than 40 pounds: 800 mg four times daily for 5 days
  • For genital herpes treatment: 200 mg five times daily for 10 days
  • For preventing a recurrence of genital herpes: 400 mg every 12 hours for 12 months
  • For treatment of shingles: 800 milligrams (mg) five times daily for 7 to 10 days

What Happens When Too Much Acyclovir (Zovirax) is Taken and there is an Overdose?

Kidney damage can result from an overdose. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Kidney failure (no urine production)
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Agitation

If you believe that you or someone else has overdosed on acyclovir, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If you or someone else has any of severe symptoms listed after an overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately.

What Happens If I Miss a Dose of Acyclovir (Zovirax) or Don’t Take It as Prescribed?

Only take the medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not just stop taking this medication on your own because skipping doses or stopping before you’re supposed to will make the infections harder to treat later on.

When and if you miss a dose of acyclovir, always take it as soon as you remember. Only skip the missed dose when you’re too close to taking your last one. Never take a double dose to make up for a missed one.


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