Hepatitis B – What you need to know
Here at Your Sexual Health we have a range of private STI tests to diagnose conditions including Hepatitis B. You’re at risk of contracting the disease if you’ve had unprotected sex with someone for the first time; you’ve had a one night stand without wearing a condom; or, you believe you’ve had sex with someone who has the disease. This informational resource has been put together with Your Sexual Health’s Dr Rashid Bani to provide you with the knowledge that you need before booking your test.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection of your liver. It’s caused by a virus that is transmitted from one person to another via bodily fluids, such as during sexual intercourse or by the use of contaminated needles. It doesn’t cause any clear symptoms and will usually pass after a period of months without treatment. Although the condition is less common in the UK in comparison to other parts of the world, people who have unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners are part of a high risk group.
Hepatitis B symptoms
Hepatitis B does not have any unique symptoms and unlike many other sexually transmitted infections, it does not affect the genitals. Many people may have the virus and fight it off without ever knowing it was Hepatitis B. Anyone who does experience symptoms will usually notice them two or three months after the initial infections, with signs including: –
- Flu-like symptoms such as general fatigue, fever, night sweats, aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Sickness and nausea
- Pain in the abdomen
The condition will usually pass within three months which is known as acute Hepatitis B, however on rare occasions Hepatitis B may last six months or more – described as chronic Hepatitis B. Chronic Hepatitis can cause liver conditions such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.
How common is Hepatitis B?
The UK is a described as a low risk area by the World Health Organization. It is believed that 1 in 350 people have chronic hepatitis B in the UK with many of those with the condition coming from high risk nations outside the UK. If you visit a high risk area of the world you should have a vaccination before travelling.
How do you contract Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is spread via the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person, such as in semen or vaginal fluid. One of the most common causes of contracting Hepatitis B in the UK is by having unprotected sex with someone who has the virus. However, there are also other ways that you may contract it, including:-
- Having a tattoo or piercing in an unsterilized environment using unsterilised equipment
- Sharing toothbrushes or razors with an infected person if it is contaminated with blood
- Sharing a needle or other paraphernalia with an infected person during drug use
- Passed from mother to child during childbirth
Luckily, unlike many other viruses, hepatitis B can’t be passed from person to person through kissing, coughing, sneezing or sharing crockery.
What are the measures to protect against Hepatitis B?
When it comes to protecting yourself against infection of Hepatitis B through sex, the most effective way is to always use a condom. This is especially important if you are someone who has many sexual partners or you’re sleeping with someone who does. Of course, you can’t always tell if the person you’re sleeping with has a lot of sexual partners, therefore you should always wear a condom unless you can know for certain.
If you are visiting a country or region that has high rates of Hepatitis you can receive vaccinations against the condition which will prevent you from contracting the disease for up to 20 years.
What tests are available to diagnose Hepatitis B?
Your Sexual Health offer a range of private STD tests in order to diagnose hepatitis B. This includes both specific individual tests for the condition and profile tests which allow you to diagnose multiple conditions using one sample. Our tests are available in any of our clinics across the UK, whilst we also offer a home visit service which can visit any address across the UK. We also have a range of postal tests. All of our tests are 100% confidential and help ensure you get the diagnosis and treatment that you need in an environment you are comfortable with.
How do you treat Hepatitis B?
Although hepatitis B will usually pass without infection, it’s important that you get any possible treatment against the infection in order to prevent lasting damage from chronic hepatitis B. The type of treatment depends when you were infected.
- If you’ve been knowingly exposed to the virus within the last few days you will be offered emergency medication in an attempt to prevent the virus replicating.
- If you’ve had the condition for longer than a week, but less than three months you may only require medication to alleviate the symptoms of the disease.
- If you develop chronic hepatitis B you may be offered medications to keep the virus under control and slow the progression of cirrhosis, reduce incidence of liver cancer and improve long term survival.
What is the outlook for people with the disease?
Acute hepatitis B will usually pass within three months and then you will be immune from the condition for life.
However, chronic hepatitis B can last for months and years and may result in more permanent damage affecting your liver. Some of the life-threatening problems that you may be affected by if you develop chronic hepatitis B include cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Many people that develop chronic hepatitis B may need to manage their ailments for the rest of their life. Around 5% of all adults who contract the disease will be affected by chronic hepatitis B.