Hepatitis

Hepatitis is the name used to describe inflammation of the liver, it can be difficult to spot and can cause serious liver damage and other health problems if left untreated.

There are various ways a person can develop Hepatitis such as - infections, some types of medication, toxins, poisons and from alcohol.

There are a number of different viruses that can cause Hepatitis and some of these are passed from person to person through sexual intercourse.

This page provides information on viral Hepatitis, that is:  Hepatitis caused by a viral infection.

The different types of Hepatitis virus are A, B, C, D & E.

Most types of viral Hepatitis can be passed on through having unprotected sex - some are more easy to catch that others.

Not all types are equal, some will pass from the body without serious problems, others can be long-lasting and cause liver scarring, reduction in liver function and in some causes even liver cancer.

If you have ever injected drugs and shared needles you should get tested for Hepatitis.

Each type of Hepatitis differs in the way you can become infected:

Hepatitis A  

  • swallowing something that has been infected with faeces (poo).
  • is common in places where sanitation is poor

Hepatitis B

  • from an infected mother to her baby
  • through sex or unsterile medical proceedures
  • through sharing needles

Hepatitis C

  • from an infected mother to her baby at or before birth
  • through sharing needles
  • through sex or unsterile medical proceedures

Hepatitis D

  • is caused by the Hepatitis B virus as it needs the B virus in order to survive in the body
  • from an infected mother to her baby
  • through sex or unsterile medical proceedures
  • through sharing needles

Hepatitus E

  • Spread in a similar way to hepatitis A i.e swallowing something that has been infected with faeces (poo).
  • is common in places where sanitation is poor
  • Unlike hepatitis B, C or D, there is no evidence showing that hepatitis E can be transmitted through sharing needles, bodily fluids or through sexual contact, apart from mouth contact with the anal area.

 

Short-term Hepatitis can often come and go without any noticeable symptoms.

When symptoms do develop they include:

  • a general sense of feeling unwell
  • a high temperature
  • muscle and joint pain
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • dark urine
  • tummy pain
  • pale, grey-coloured poo
  • itchy skin

Long-term Hepatitis may not have any obvious symptoms but can still be causing damage to the liver and can result in liver failure.

To get tested you should visit a sexual health clinic or your doctor, testing involves providing a sample of blood.

The blood test will look for any antibodies to the virus which have been produced by the immune system in response to the Hepatitis infection. If these are present then it proves that you have been infected at some point.

If the virus is found to be of the type B or C, then further analysis will be done to find if the person is still carrying the virus.

As is the case with most viral infections, keeping yourself healthy helps to clear the virus naturally.

There is no treatment for Hepatitis A & E, they both clear on their own.

With Hepatitis B some people will clear the virus naturally, others may have treatment that helps to clear the virus. In cases of long-term infection, medication can be used to manage the symptoms.

Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medication, either in pill form or from an injection.

The more sexual partners you have the higher the risk of becoming infected. The best prevention is to practice safer sex, this means using condoms for vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Hepatitis A & B can be prevented through vaccination.

There is no vaccination available for Hepatitis C, prevention of Hepatitis C depends upon having save sex and not sharing needles if you are taking drugs. Also avoiding unclean medical procedures such as tattoos and piercings.

Myth: Getting an STI test is painful
Truth:

For both men and women an STI test can be as simple and easy as providing a urine sample. Some tests involve having blood taken or visually examining the genitals.

Had unprotected sex?

If you have had unprotected sex this puts you at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection.

Symptom Checker Find a clinic Do I have an infection? What to expect at the clinic?