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Hepatitis is the medical name for inflammation of the liver. There are different causes of hepatitis, some of which are viruses and can be transmitted through sexual activity, others can be caused by alcohol.
In many cases, hepatitis can have no symptoms. However, early signs can include flu-like symptoms such as:
Some types of hepatitis can pass without affecting the liver, but others can become chronic and last for many years, or cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). Symptoms of chronic hepatitis include:
There are several different types of hepatitis, but only hepatitis A and B can be transmitted through unprotected sexual activity.
Other types of hepatitis include hepatitis D, hepatitis E, alcoholic hepatitis and autoimmune hepatitis.
Hepatitis is tested by a blood test, designed to look for evidence that your immune system is trying to fight the virus. Testing can also include a check of your liver function, an ultrasound scan, or a liver biopsy (where a small sample of liver tissue is taken for testing).
You can get tested for hepatitis at Brook services, young people’s services, GUM or sexual health clinics and GP surgeries. Find your nearest using our find a service tool.
If you test positive for hepatitis your doctor or nurse will advise you what to do and may prescribe antiviral medication. If you test positive for hepatitis C you will be referred to a specialist to discuss treatment options. It is thought that treatment is more effective the sooner it is started.
Some types of viral hepatitis will also require Public Health England to be notified. This is for types of hepatitis which are rarer in the UK such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
For many types of hepatitis there is no treatment, although symptoms can be managed with antiviral medication. It is also important to rest, stay hydrated and also rest your liver (such as not drinking any alcohol). You may also be advised to take painkillers such as ibuprofen. Some infections pass within a few months while others can become chronic.
If you test positive for hepatitis you should tell your current and any recent sexual partners (last six months) so that they can get tested too. Some clinics also offer partner notification which is a way to contact your partner using a ‘contact slip’. This process doesn’t mention your name and lets your partner/s know that they may have been exposed to an STI and advising them to get tested.
Not an STI but STIs can trigger it.
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