What is Hepatitis and what does it do?
Hepatitis is the name used to define inflammation of the liver which can be a result of a viral infection or excessive consumption of alcohol. There are different types of Hepatitis Categorised A, B and C. Types D and E are rare.
Hepatitis A is usually contracted through a person consuming food or drink contaminated with faeces from an infected person. It is most common in countries with poor sanitation and although many recover it can be potentially life threatening. There is no specific treatment however vaccinations are recommended if you engage in anal sex, travelling to a place where the virus is common and or you inject illegal drugs. The vaccination lasts up to ten years.
Hepatitis D is usually contracted through sexual contact or blood to blood contact. It is uncommon in the UK but more widespread in South America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Hepatitis D only affects those living with Hepatitis B as it needs the Hepatitis B virus to survive in the body. Hepatitis D can lead to the development of liver cancer and cirrhosis. There is so vaccine against Hepatitis D but there is one for Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus which is spread through the blood of an infected person. It can also be contracted through bodily fluids exchanged during sex. It infects and damages the liver and is easily transmitted through sex and sharing injecting equipment. Many people can make a full recovery however for those with a weakened immune system (e.g. those living with HIV) it can become extremely serious. It is 100 times more infectious that HIV and is the most widespread form of hepatitis.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
- Low fever
- Muscle and joint pains
- Dark urine
- Yellow skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itchy skin
- Light coloured Stools.
How is it transmitted?
- Sharing injecting equipment
- Anal, Oral and vaginal sex without a condom (the virus can be passed on through pre-cum, semen and vaginal secretions)
- Sharing contaminated sex toys
- Toxins in alcohol
- A mother can pass it on to her child during childbirth however this is extremely unlikely in the UK as pregnant women get tested for all type of virus’ and diseases.
- A vaccine for Hepatitis B (Hep B as it is sometimes referred to) is available and is recommended if you engage in anal sex, have unprotected sex and inject illicit drugs.
- Refrain from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Safe sex should be practiced (using condoms)
Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the cells in your liver and over time can cause inflammation and fibrosis over many years this can develop into cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is mainly transmitted through contaminated blood however it is possible to be transmitted through sexual contact. The Hepatitis C virus can disappear in one in four people however one in three with the virus (especially those with a weakened immune system) are likely to develop cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is the most common type of Hepatitis in the UK however there is no vaccine.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C include:
- Nausea and fatigue
- Poor appetite
- Aching muscles and joints
- Yellowing of skin
- Yellowing of whites of eyes
- Light coloured stool
- Dark urine
How is it transmitted?
- Sharing of injecting equipment
- Sexual transmission is rare but it is possible for gay men with HIV to contract the virus via unprotected sex
- People who have had blood transfusions or treatments with blood products that have not been screened
- During childbirth, a mother can pass can it on to her child
- Sharing anything that may have blood on it, e.g. toothbrush, razors etc.
- Do not share needles and syringes
- Avoid sharing razors and toothbrushes with an infected person
- Practice safe sex