Overview Hepatitis

Hepatitis is a medical condition defined by an inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A & B can be passed on through sexual contact by bodily fluids or blood. Sometimes Hepatitis can cause permanent liver damage.

How is Hepatitis A & B passed?

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is found in faeces/faecal matter (poo) you could ingest a small amount through unprotected sex such as rimming or giving a blow job after someone has given insertive anal sex.

Food or water could be contaminated with Hepatitis A if someone infected with the virus doesn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom before preparing or serving food.

Hepatitis B

The Hepatitis B virus is present in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and saliva. You could come into contact with HEP B through;

  • Unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex
  • Sharing needles, blades, sex toys or toothbrushes
  • Contact with small amounts of blood
  • Exchange of saliva, deep kissing or bites.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is generally passed through blood whilst it can be passed through bodily fluids entering the blood stream via unprotected sex, the risk is considered very low. 

Symptoms of Hepatitis A and Acute Hepatitis B & C

Most people who’re infected with Hepatitis A, B or C do not realize as they may experience no symptoms while others will feel unwell to varying degrees. Acute Hepatitis refers to the fact that whilst symptoms may last a few months generally these’ll pass on their own without treatment, and that the virus will leave your body. However, it's still a good idea to see your GP for a blood test if you think you could have hepatitis A, as more serious conditions can have similar symptoms. Your GP can also advise you about treatments and they may carry out regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working. Go back to your GP if your symptoms get worse or haven't started to improve within a couple of months.

 

  • muscle and joint pain 
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • a general sense of feeling unwell
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal (tummy) pain
  • dark urine
  • pale, grey-coloured poo
  • itchy skin
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)

 

Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis B & C

The symptoms of long-term or chronic hepatitis can vary widely. In some people, symptoms may be barely noticeable. In others, they can have a significant impact on their quality of life. The symptoms can also go away for long periods of time and then return.

 

  • feeling tired all the time
  • joint and muscle aches and pain
  • feeling sick
  • problems with short-term memory, concentration and completing complex mental tasks such as mental arithmetic – many people describe this as "brain fog"
  • mood swings
  • depression or anxiety
  • indigestion or bloating
  • itchy skin 
  • abdominal pain

 

If left untreated, the infection can eventually cause the liver to become scarred (cirrhosis). Signs of cirrhosis can include jaundice, vomiting blood, dark stools, and a build-up of fluid in the legs or abdomen.

See your GP if you persistently have any of the later symptoms above, or if they keep returning. They may recommend having a blood test that can check for hepatitis C.

Treatment of Hepatitis A, B & C

Hepatitis A

There's currently no cure for hepatitis A, but it will normally pass on its own within a couple of months. You can usually look after yourself at home. The following advice may help ease your symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest, especially during the initial stages of the infection, as you will probably feel very tired.
  • Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if you have any aches and pains – how much you can take depends on how well your liver is working; ask your GP for advice.
  • Reduce itching by maintaining a cool, well-ventilated environment, wearing loose clothing and avoiding hot baths or showers – your GP may recommend using an antihistamine in severe cases.
  • Eat smaller, lighter meals to help reduce nausea and vomiting – your GP can prescribe a medication called an antiemetic if the problem persists.
  • Avoid alcohol – drinking alcohol can put additional strain on your liver, so avoid it until your GP says it's safe.

 

Acute Hepatitis B

  • get plenty of rest
  • take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, for tummy (abdominal) pain
  • maintain a cool, well-ventilated environment, wear loose clothing, and avoid hot baths or showers if itching is a problem
  • take medication such as metoclopramide to stop you feeling sick and chlorphenamine to reduce itching – your doctor can give you a prescription for these if necessary

Most people recover completely in a couple of months, but you'll be advised to have regular blood tests to check that you're free of the virus and haven't developed chronic hepatitis B.

 

Chronic Hepatitis B

If blood tests show that you still have hepatitis B after six months, your doctor may recommend medication to reduce the risk of complications of hepatitis B and regular tests to assess the health of your liver.

Treatment is usually offered if:

  • your immune system is unable to control the hepatitis B by itself
  • there's evidence of ongoing liver damage

Hepatitis B medications can help keep the virus under control and stop it damaging your liver, although they won't necessarily cure the infection and some people need lifelong treatment.

 

Acute Hepatitis C

If the infection is diagnosed in the early stages, known as acute hepatitis, treatment may not need to begin straight away.

Instead, you may have another blood test after a few months to see if your body fights off the virus.

If the infection continues for several months, known as chronic hepatitis, treatment will usually be recommended.

 

Chronic Hepatitis C

Treatment for hepatitis C involves:

  • making lifestyle changes to help prevent further damage to your liver and reduce the risk of spreading the infection
  • taking one or more medications to fight the virus

 

You'll normally need to take medication for 8 to 48 weeks. The length of time will depend on the exact medicines you're taking and which version (strain) of the hepatitis C virus you have. Your doctor will advise you about this.

 

Is Hepatitis A, B & C curable?

Acute hepatitis A, B & C can generally be fought off by most adults and therefore is curable. Chronic hepatitis A, B & C cannot be cured but is treatable.

Do I need to contact previous sexual partners?

It is not recommended that previous sexual partners get tested unless they’re experiencing symptoms of hepatitis a, b & c.