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Hepatitis - symptoms and causes

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What is hepatitis and how is it caused?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, which tends to be caused by a viral infection or liver damage as a result of alcohol misuse. However, in most cases, it is the result of a virus, known as viral hepatitis and the most common forms are hepatitis B and C.

How can you catch hepatitis?

Hepatitis B can be contracted through contact with blood or bodily fluids, such as semen from an infected individual. Often, it is spread through unprotected sex, that’s why it is important to use barrier methods of protection such as condoms.

Anyone can get hepatitis B, but people, who have multiple sexual partners, inject drugs or share needles have a higher risk. Hepatitis B can also be spread by getting a tattoo, piercing or medical treatment in an unsterilized and unhygienic environment.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Commonly hepatitis presents no symptoms for the first few weeks and so you could have the infection without realising it. It you do have symptoms, they can include fatigue, nausea, lose of appetite, a mild fever, or yellow skin or eyes (jaundice). When hepatitis B and C becomes long-term, symptoms may not be obvious and you may not notice any for years until your liver stops working.

With hepatitis B, many people will show mild symptoms for a short time and get better in due course. But, some people are not able to clear the virus from their body, which causes a long-term infection. Over time, hepatitis B can lead to serious problems, such as liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer.

With hepatitis C, about a quarter of people with the infection will defeat the virus on their own but the rest will carry the virus for a long time. Like with hepatitis B, long term complications can include liver failure and liver cancer.

How can you test for hepatitis?

If you think that you have hepatitis B and C you can get tested for the infection at your GP surgery or local sexual health clinic. Diagnosis involves collection of a blood sample which is then tested. If you would prefer to self-test you can do so at home by using a LetsGetChecked test kit.

How can I lower my risk of contracting hepatitis?

Hepatitis can be contracted through a variety of circumstances, for example if you are having unprotected sex or sharing drug injecting equipment. That’s why it is always important to practice safe sex, to not share needles and get regularly tested.

Is hepatitis curable?

Currently, vaccination is only available to protect against hepatitis A and B, these are recommended for people who are at high risk for exposure. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Can I test myself at home for hepatitis?

There are a wide variety of STI home test kits available, including LetsGetChecked at-home tests. You can order a home STI test online and have it delivered to your home. If you have any questions our instore Pharmacists will be able to answer your queries.