Hepatitis C – What you need to know

Here at Your Sexual Health we have a range of private STI tests that can diagnose hepatitis C, including individual and profile tests. You’re at risk of catching hepatitis C if you’ve had unprotected sex with someone who has the condition. This informational resource has been put together by Your Sexual Health’s very own Dr Rashid Bani and offers you all the information that you need before booking a private hepatitis C test with us. If you have any other questions contact us on 0161 660 2599 or email info@yoursexualhealth.co.uk.

What is hepatitis C?

Similar to hepatitis B, hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver and can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage if left untreated. Luckily, due to modern medicine it’s possible for someone to contract the virus and go on to lead a normal life. It’s a blood borne disease that can be passed from an infected individual if you come into contact with their blood, such as during sexual intercourse.

Hepatitis C symptoms

Unfortunately, the symptoms of hepatitis C don’t show until the liver has been damaged to a significant degree. This means many people contract the infection and allow it to progress without realising. Even when symptoms do occur they can often be mistaken for common illnesses. Symptoms include: –

  • Tiredness and fatigue around the clock
  • Fever and flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling and being sick

Due to their likeness to many other conditions, the only way to know if they are caused by Hepatitis C is to undergo an STI test.

How common is hepatitis C?

According to Public Health England, there are around 160,000 people chronically infected with hepatitis C in England. The majority of these cases come from marginalised and underserved groups in society, including people who inject drugs, but it’s also possible to catch hepatitis C through unprotected sex.

How do you contract hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C can be spread by a number of ways, but in essence it’s passed on through blood-to-blood contact. Although it can be passed on through unprotected sex, this is not necessarily the most common cause. Hepatitis C can be spread by: –

  • Sharing unsterilized needles – particularly those used during the injection of recreational drugs
  • Sharing razors or toothbrushes
  • Passing from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
  • Through unprotected sex with someone who has the condition

It’s estimated that in the UK around half of people who inject drugs have the infection. If you’ve slept with someone who may fit into this category, you should get tested.

How can you avoid hepatitis C?

In terms of sexual health, hepatitis C can be avoided by always using protection when having sexual intercourse. This should be particularly true if you are sleeping with someone who you know has the condition or you think may have injected recreational drugs in the past.

What tests are available to diagnose Hepatitis C?

Your Sexual Health have a range of private STI tests that can diagnose hepatitis C, including a range of profile and individual tests. Our Profile 6 test diagnoses both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C using the same blood sample, whilst an individual Hepatitis C test is also available.

Our tests are available at a range of clinics across the UK, whilst we can also collect samples from any address in the UK on our home visits test. We also offer Postal Test Kits which offer maximum convenience, whilst still delivering accurate laboratory tested results.

Hepatitis C is a condition that causes damage before any symptoms occur making it imperative that you get tested if you believe you may have been exposed to it.

How can you treat hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C can be treated successfully by taking a combination of medicines for several weeks whilst making a number of lifestyle changes to protect the liver and reduce the risk of the condition spreading. The course of medication will usually last from anywhere between 8 to 48 months, with the length of treatment depending on the medication offered and the strain of hepatitis C virus which you have.

The lifestyle measures which will aid treatment and prevent the condition spreading include: –

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly and remaining active
  • Cutting out alcohol completely or reducing the amount that you drink
  • Stopping smoking

If the infection is diagnosed at an early stage then treatment often won’t be offered immediately. In these instances you will undergo further testing a few months after initial diagnosis to see if your body can fight off the virus.

What is the outlook for people with hepatitis C?

The outlook for people with hepatitis C depends on how long it remains in their body before diagnosis. If diagnosis occurs at a relatively early point and before serious damage is done to the liver, then the patient can receive effective treatment and go on to lead a normal and full life.

Complications can occur with hepatitis C if the infection is left untreated for a period of years, causing scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis. This can cause the liver to function improperly over time. Hepatitis C can also cause and contribute to other serious liver issues such as liver cancer or liver failure.

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