Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a liver infection that is caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV can be spread through sexual and non-sexual contact. About 75% of people with Hepatitis C will develop a chronic (long term) condition. Many people do not know they have Hepatitis C, as symptoms may not show until years after the initial infection. In these cases, considerable damage may have been done to the liver. Testing for Hepatitis C regularly can help you to be diagnosed quickly and prevent permanent liver damage.

How common is Hepatitis C?

Around the world, about 58 million people have chronic Hepatitis C. Every year 1.5 million people are infected with HCV across the globe. Hepatitis C is very common in Egypt, with that country having the highest rate of Hepatitis C infection in the world. This was caused by an unrelated vaccination programme during the 1950s to 1980s. If you have recently travelled to Egypt, had any form of medical interventions in Egypt or might have come into contact with any blood, body fluids or tissues, then you should strongly consider getting a Hepatitis C test.

How can I catch Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C can be passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Gay men are at increased risk of catching this infection as are those who are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive. Heterosexual monogamous couples are at extremely low risk of catching Hepatitis C through sex. The virus can be passed from one person to another if there is blood-to-blood contact.

Can I catch Hepatitis C without being sexually active?

Whilst Hepatitis C can be spread by unprotected sex it can also be passed on through non-sexual ways. Nearly 45% of intravenous drug users have caught Hepatitis C by sharing needles. Similarly, it can be caught by having a tattoo or body piercing with equipment that has not been properly sterilised. It can also be caught by sharing toothbrushes or razors. An accidental needle stick injury could also lead to a Hepatitis C infection. You may catch Hepatitis C by receiving medical treatment in developing countries, or anywhere medical and surgical equipment is not properly sterilised.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis C?

About 80% of people with Hepatitis C have no visible symptoms and the only way to know if you have Hepatitis C is to test for it. Hepatitis C symptoms in men and women develop over years and include:

  • Tiredness

  • Aches

  • Fever

  • Rash and/or itchy skin

  • Pale coloured poo

  • Dark coloured pee

  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes or skin)

  • Stomach pain

  • Poor appetite

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Mood swings

  • Anxiety and depression

When should I get tested for Hepatitis C?

You should test for Hepatitis C if you have unprotected sex with someone who has tested positive or if you share drug needles or syringes. Gay men or people who are HIV positive are at high risk of catching Hepatitis C and should take regular tests. Anyone who may work with infected blood through their job (e.g., doctors and clinical scientists) should test regularly. You and your partner may wish to be tested for Hepatitis C if you are trying to get pregnant as the infection can be passed on to the baby.

You should wait 10 days from when you think you may have been infected to take the Better2Know PCR test. If your risk of catching Hepatitis C is high, then you should take a repeat test 4–6 weeks later.

How do I get tested for Hepatitis C?

At Better2Know, you can test for Hepatitis C on its own, or as part of our Hepatitis screen. The Hepatitis screen is a popular choice as it uses a single blood sample to test for Hepatitis A, B, and C infections. Several different tests are available including tests to see if you are infected, are immune to Hepatitis C, or have a long-term infection. You should receive your results 1–7 working days after your sample has reached our laboratory.

Take responsibility for your sexual health with Better2Know. Testing with Better2Know is easy, fast, and pain-free. You can book a test today with Better2Know by calling our Sexual Health Advisory team on the number above or online by clicking the Get Started button.

What are the risks if Hepatitis C is left untreated?

If left untreated, Hepatitis C can weaken your immune system, increasing your risk of catching other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If not monitored, long-term liver inflammation may lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver cancer, and liver failure. Treatment of Hepatitis C prevents you from spreading the infection to others.

How can Hepatitis C affect a pregnant person and their baby?

If you are pregnant, the risk of passing on Hepatitis C to your baby can be reduced. Your midwife will be able to advise you on the best ways to do so.

What do I do if I test positive for Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is normally curable if you take anti-viral medications. If you test positive for Hepatitis C, your doctor will refer you to a specialist. They will monitor your virus levels and liver health as well as advise you on the best treatment. You can decide whether to continue this treatment with your Better2Know doctor or a doctor of your choice.

How is Hepatitis C treated?

Detecting the infection early is the best way to prevent long-term infection. As there are often no symptoms of Hepatitis C the only way to confirm an infection is by testing. Hepatitis C treatment involves taking anti-viral medicines which are highly effective in treating the infection and have few side effects. Treatment for Hepatitis C offers the best chance to clear the virus in the body and works in about 95% of patients. However, some types of Hepatitis C are more easily treated than others. Even if the infection is not completely cleared up by the Hepatitis C medication it will reduce inflammation and scarring of the liver. Some people find lifestyle changes including exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and reducing alcohol intake can help them to manage their symptoms. Your doctor will be able to give you advice on which lifestyle changes you may find effective.

At Better2Know we can arrange a private doctor’s appointment. If you prefer you can consult a doctor of your choice who will be able to advise on steps to minimise passing on the Hepatitis C infection to others and provide you with a treatment plan.

Can Hepatitis C come back?

You can have Hepatitis C more than once. To reduce your risk of re-infection you should practice safe sex, and avoid sharing needles, syringes, razors, and toothbrushes. Currently, there is no vaccine available to protect you from Hepatitis C.

If you think you have caught Hepatitis C again then you should take a test.

When can I have sex again after being treated for Hepatitis C?

You should not have sex until you and your partner(s) are no longer infectious. This prevents you from infecting each other and/or other people.

How do I book a Hepatitis C test?

Better2Know is the world’s leading provider of private sexual health testing services. We provide you with fast and accurate testing to give you peace of mind.

You can book a test today with Better2Know by calling our Sexual Health Advisory team on the number above. Our expert Patient Services staff will help you select the right test and book any follow-up appointments if requested. If you prefer to book your test online, you can do so by clicking the Get Started button above.

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