Is valacyclovir better than acyclovir?

If you’re wondering whether valacyclovir is better than acyclovir, then first of all I have to ask: why are you wondering this? Did someone put a gun to your head and say “tell me which one is better or else”? Or maybe you just really enjoy learning about antiviral medications. No judgment here.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase: is valacyclovir actually better than acyclovir? The answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you might hope (or fear). But don’t worry, we’ll get through it together (hopefully).

Understanding Herpes

Before we dive into the differences between these two drugs, let’s talk about what they’re used for in the first place. Both valacyclovir and acyclovir are antiviral medications that are typically prescribed for people with herpes infections.

Now wait, before your mind goes straight to genitals – there are actually a few different types of herpes viruses out there. The most common ones are:

  • Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores around the mouth
  • Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), which usually causes genital herpes
  • Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox and shingles

In other words, if someone tells you they have herpes but doesn’t specify which type, it could be any of these three viruses.

All three viruses work in roughly the same way – once they infect your body, they can become dormant in your nerve cells for long periods of time (sneaky bastards). When something triggers them – like stress or illness – they can reactivate and cause new outbreaks (rude).

How Do Antiviral Medications Work?

So how do valacyclovir and acyclovir come into play here? Both of these drugs are part of a class called nucleoside analogues, which basically means they mess with the DNA (or RNA) replication process in viruses (not cool, man).

When a herpes virus tries to replicate inside your body’s cells, it needs certain building blocks – namely, nucleosides. But when valacyclovir or acyclovir get absorbed into those same cells, they trick the virus into using them instead of regular nucleosides (ha! gotcha!).

The result is that the virus can’t copy itself properly anymore (serves you right). It might still be able to make some faulty copies that don’t work very well, but it won’t be able to spread as easily through your body (take that).

The Differences Between Valacyclovir and Acyclovir

So far so good – both valacyclovir and acyclovir sound like pretty effective options for treating herpes infections. But what sets them apart?

How They’re Administered:

One key difference is how you take them. Acyclovir comes in several forms: pills you swallow (usually 2-5 times per day), ointment you apply directly to cold sores/sores caused by genital herpes every few hours throughout the day; intravenous injections if symptoms are more severe or if patient has compromised immune system.

Valacyclovir only comes in pill form, but its unique chemical structure allows it to be converted into acyclovir once it enters your body (fancy chemistry). This means that even though valacyclovir hasn’t technically been approved for use against shingles (shhhh), doctors will sometimes prescribe it anyway(#rebelsghoul) since there isn’t much else out there besides this drug class anyways.

How Often They Need to Be Taken:

Another difference is how often you need to take them. Valacyclovir typically only needs to be taken once a day, while acyclovir may require multiple doses throughout the day depending on the type and severity of your symptoms (always choose less work, my mantra).


Finally (and perhaps most importantly), valacyclovir has a higher bioavailability than acyclovir. That means it’s better absorbed into your bloodstream and can therefore reach higher concentrations in your body(whoa there). This in turn makes it more effective at preventing viral replication (bye bye herpes).

What About Side Effects?

So we’ve established that valacyclovir might have some advantages over acyclovir when it comes to treating herpes infections. But are there any downsides? Sadly, yes – as with pretty much any medication out there, both drugs come with potential side effects.

Common side effects of both drugs include things like mild nausea or headaches (nothing worse than an underwhelmed side effect). More serious but rare complications include kidney damage or blood disorders (especially if the patient already had kidney issues before starting treatment) (#yikes).

Valacyclovir specifically also has some unique side effects that aren’t seen with acyclovir – for example, confusion or hallucinations in older patients who have underlying neurological problems (never too old for life experience like this!…wait what am I saying).

The Verdict

In conclusion then: is valacyclovir really better than acyclovir? Well…maybe? It does seem to offer some benefits over its older cousin – particularly when it comes to convenience and effectiveness against certain types of herpes viruses (#familyfeud). However, neither drug is perfect; each one carries risks as well as potential rewards #sigh – welcome to the reality of pharmaceuticals.

At the end of the day, your doctor will probably be the best person to decide which one is right for you – based on factors like your age, overall health, and severity/frequency of your symptoms(fallback plan – let’s put this all on someone else’s shoulder!). But it’s always helpful to have a little bit more info beforehand so you can ask smarter (or maybe annoying) questions (all in good humor).

Now that we’re done with this article, though…I kind of feel like I need to go take a shower or something? Talking about herpes for too long makes me feel gross (too much information?).

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