What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that can result in different symptoms and treatment needs in infected patients. The Hepatitis B virus can cause an acute (short-term) illness that often resolves itself quickly without causing chronic (long-term) liver damage. However, in about 20% of cases, it can result in a chronic illness that lasts more than 6 months (sometimes for life), causing cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure. In these cases, the infection may eventually be fatal.
How can I catch Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is usually transmitted through sexual and non-sexual contact with infected blood or body fluids. Only a tiny amount of blood is needed to transmit the virus because it is highly infectious. The virus may also be present in saliva, vaginal secretions, breast milk and other bodily fluids.
In the UK, infection most commonly occurs through unprotected sexual intercourse, but also through sharing instruments such as needles and razors contaminated with infected blood. Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted through kissing, coughing or sneezing nor by sharing cutlery, towels or toilet seats.
What are the symptoms and signs of Hepatitis B?
Like many Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), the virus often has no symptoms, which is why it is important to get checked regularly. Symptoms, if they occur, can include feeling tired, fever and high temperature, aches, nausea, vomiting, passing darker urine than usual and jaundice, where the skin or whites of the eyes may appear yellow.
Did you know? …
The Hepatitis B virus is 100 times more infectious than the AIDS virus (HIV).
How can Hepatitis B be tested/checked?
A small blood sample is needed to test for Hepatitis B infections and can also be used for other STIs you may want to test for. Results are normally available within 1 working day after our laboratory receives your sample. Some Better2Know clinics have Instant Hepatitis B testing available, which gives you a result in around 20 minutes.
Better2Know offers a test for Hepatitis B as part of our Hepatitis Screen.
What are the risks associated with Hepatitis B?
If left undetected and untreated, the Hepatitis B virus can weaken your immune system and make you more at risk of contracting HIV and other STIs through unprotected sexual intercourse. It can also cause chronic inflammation of the liver and may lead to cirrhosis (20% of patients), liver cancer (5% of patients) and fulminant Hepatitis B, which is when the immune system attacks the liver and causes extensive damage (1% of patients). Therefore, it is important to get tested regularly and, if necessary, to start a treatment plan.
If you are a woman who is pregnant, the risk of transmission to your baby can be minimised; your midwife will be able to advise you.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis B?
Most people with Hepatitis B do not need specific treatment, other than rest and possibly painkillers, to make a full recovery within a couple of months. However, if the disease becomes chronic, then you will be treated with medication to keep the virus under control and prevent prolonged damage to the liver.
An effective vaccination plan is available from Better2Know to protect you from the infection. Family and other household members of an infected person should be vaccinated. Healthcare workers and volunteers, medical employees, police and emergency services personnel, and anyone who is likely to come into contact with infected blood through their job should also be vaccinated. For more information, see our vaccines page.
Book your Hepatitis B test
Better2Know is the world’s leading provider of private sexual health testing services. We will arrange a clinic appointment or home testing kit quickly, and deliver fast and accurate results for your peace of mind. If you have any concerns about your sexual health, please contact us or call our friendly booking team on the number above.