Hepatitis A, B and C

Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

This is an inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. It is mainly spread through contaminated food and water, poor hand washing or sex.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for hepatitis A are rarely life-threatening. They can be so mild that people may not realise they have it. But weeks after infection it can cause: mild flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhoea, extreme tiredness, itchy skin stomach pain, jaundice (meaning your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow), your urine is dark and your faeces (poo) are pale.

How is it diagnosed?

It is diagnosed with a blood test. The test can tell whether you have recent infection or that you have past exposure ( either from vaccination or infection).

What is the treatment?

There is no specific treatment. Most people clear the infection but that can take several months. This will lead to lifelong immunity to Hepatitis A.

Sometimes people may need admission to hospital for monitoring of their liver function tests but this is unusual.

It can be prevented with a vaccination which can be given at sexual health clinics (or in Primary Care) to people who are at higher risk of infection or complications.

Useful Information

To find out more visit the NHS website

Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

This is inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. It is spread through exposure to blood and body fluids.

Most people in the UK are at risk from unprotected sexual contact with an infected person or from sharing needles/drug paraphernalia.

Certain countries are at higher risk for hepatitis B. In those countries in may be acquired in childhood.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for hepatitis B are non-specific and most patients won’t have any symptoms at all.

They can occur two- three months after being exposed to the infection and may consist of: flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea, extreme tiredness, itchy skin, stomach pain, jaundice (meaning your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow), your urine is dark and your faeces(poo) are pale.

How is it diagnosed?

It is diagnosed with a blood test. The test can tell whether you have recent infection or that you have past exposure.

What is the Treatment?

There is no specific treatment. Most people who are exposed clear the infection but that can take several months.

If you think you may have been exposed to Hepatitis B, the vaccine can be giving within the first 6 weeks after this exposure to prevent you becoming infected. Please call the Department of Sexual Health / GUM on 01202 704644 for advise.

Those patients who do not clear the virus (more than 6 months after they have become infected) may be offered treatment with medication that can keep the virus under control.

It can be prevented with vaccination (3 doses) which can be given at sexual health clinics (or in Primary Care) to people who are at higher risk of infection or complications.

Useful information

To find out more visit the NHS website. 

Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

This is inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. It is spread mainly through exposure to blood.

Most people in the UK are at risk from sharing needles/drug paraphernalia, sharing razor blades/toothbrushes.

Unprotected sexual contact with an infected person is a less common way to spread the infection though this is more common with unprotected anal sex or fisting.

A mother can pass it to her unborn child.

If left, it can lead to serious damage to the liver over many years.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for hepatitis C are non-specific and most patients won’t have any symptoms at all until the liver becomes damaged.

The non- specific symptoms may consist of: flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, nausea, feeling tired all the time.

How is it diagnosed?

It is diagnosed with a blood test.

What is the treatment?

There are lots of specific medications for the virus that are available. This is dependent on the type of virus and the stage of the disease process.

These are much more effective that the older types of treatment and are taken for shorter time periods; they are very costly.

However, they do not give any immunity to the virus and so you can catch it again.

There is no vaccine for this virus.

Useful information

To find out more visit the NHS or Hepatitis C Trust website.