Objectives: To assess the psychological impact of recurrent genital herpes and to determine if longterm acyclovir has any impact on this morbidity.
Setting and subjects: Patients with frequently recurring genital herpes attending a department of genitourinary medicine who were considered suitable for longterm acyclovir.
Methods: Patients completed an 80 item, self-administered psychological questionnaire before starting acyclovir and every three months for one year. Treatment was then stopped and three months later a further questionnaire was completed. The questionnaire consisted of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ); the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Questionnaire (HADQ); Illness Attitude Scales and Illness Concern. Data were analysed by McNemar's test for changes in proportions and by Wilcoxon's test for changes in scores.
Results: 102 patients were recruited: 55 men, and 47 women. Eighty two (80%) patients completed three months treatment, 75 (74%) six months, 64 (63%) nine months and 61 (60%) a year. Fifty (49%) of the original 102 patients completed the three months post treatment follow up. At first visit 63% (64/102) were designated as GHQ "cases". Within three months this decreased to 26% (21/82). McNemar's test showed that 67% (34/51) of the patients who were initially classified as GHQ "cases" became "noncases" after three months (p < 0.0001). There was a significant decrease in the proportion of HAD anxiety cases from visit one to visit two (p < 0.0001) and a decrease in illness concern scores from visit one to visit two (p < 0.0001). All these decreases were maintained throughout the years treatment with acyclovir.
Conclusions: There is a substantial morbidity associated with frequently recurring genital herpes. However, acyclovir suppression significantly reduces illness concern and anxiety and is a useful addition to the treatment of this infection.