Zovirax was first introduced to the public as an ointment, but was later turned into an oral medication and a cream. What is the difference between the Zovirax (acyclovir) cream and the Zovirax (acyclovir) ointment? Simply put, it’s basically how each is prepared and how much water and oil are used in the preparation.
Each of the preparations are made for topical or external use. A cream is primarily water based, but will have oil added to it in the process. An ointment is essentially oil based with the addition of a bit of water in the process. The biggest difference is the proportion of water to oil. Ointments are generally more stickier and greasier because of the greater amount of oil used. Creams can be more easily spread, so are good for larger areas of infection.
Additionally, the skin will absorb the water-based Zovirax (acyclovir) cream much more quickly than it will the oily Zovirax (acyclovir) ointment. The choice of prescription will depend on whether you need quick or slow absorption, size of the area, which area is affected, and what herpes strain is being treated.
Zovirax cream/ointment products, while having different absorption rates, treat the same condition equally. Whether or not you choose Zovirax (acyclovir) cream vs ointment will depend more on insurance coverage, doctor recommendation, and above-noted circumstances. Some research suggests that the cream is used more for cold sores and chickenpox, but the ointment is better used for genital herpes and blister sores in other areas of the body in persons with weakened immune systems. This is likely because of the slower absorption rate so the medication does not overwhelm the system.
It should be noted here that the Zovirax (acyclovir) medication, whether topical or oral, will not prevent the occurrence of one of the four herpes strains that responds to the medication (HSV-1, HSV 2, Epstein-Barr, and varicella). It will not cure the virus itself, so even when symptoms reside, the virus will remain dormant in the body. The medication also does not stop the spread to other people. Even if the Zovirax (acyclovir) cream/ointment is used to treat a cold sore on the lips, for example, kissing someone would still cause spread.
When prescribed, both the cream and the ointment are used multiple times daily to affected areas, usually about five times a day for four or five days straight until symptoms resolve. These topical medications work best at the earliest signs of an outbreak. That doesn’t mean it will not help full outbreaks; it just means it will be slower to recover. For sores or blisters that have been present for a while and are red, itchy, and irritated, the duration and frequency of treatment are usually increased to six times a day for seven days straight.
The success rate of Zovirax (acyclovir) cream and ointment is high, and worsening of the symptoms has rarely occurred. This is likely the better option for immediate symptom treatment.