Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that is commonly caught by having unprotected sex. Not everyone has the same symptoms of a Hepatitis B infection or requires the same treatments. Normally the infection will clear up quickly without any long lasting damage to the liver. However, some people will have a long-term infection lasting for more than 6 months. In these cases, the infection may be life-threatening as it can lead to liver failure or cancer.

How common is Hepatitis B?

There are about 296 million people infected with Hepatitis B worldwide with over 1.5 million new cases being reported each year. This infection is also responsible for an estimated 820,000 deaths each year. It is also estimated that 25% of all chronic Hepatitis B infections will cause liver cancer in the infected person leading ultimately to their death.

How can I catch Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is usually spread through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids. Only a tiny amount of blood is needed to spread the virus, as it is highly infectious. The virus can also be found in saliva, vaginal discharge, breast milk, and any other bodily fluids.

There is an effective Hepatitis B vaccine (injection) for anyone who is at high risk of catching Hepatitis B. After 5 years a booster vaccine is needed to top up your protection against Hepatitis B. Healthcare workers, clinical scientists, and emergency service workers should also be vaccinated. Contact Better2Know for more information about how to access the Hepatitis B vaccine in your area.

Can I catch Hepatitis B without being sexually active?

Hepatitis B is commonly spread by unprotected sex. Other common routes of infection include:

Accidental infection with a contaminated needle e.g. tattoo or needle

  • Needle stick injuries

  • Sharing needles to inject drugs

  • Sharing razors

  • Sharing toothbrushes

It cannot be spread through kissing, coughing, sneezing, or by sharing cutlery, towels, or toilet seats.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B often has no visible symptoms and the only way to know if you have Hepatitis B is to test for it. Hepatitis B symptoms in women and men include:

  • Aches

  • Tiredness

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Darker than normal urine

  • Diarrhoea

  • Jaundice – skin or white of the eyes appear yellow, itchy skin or rash, and a swollen liver

When should I get tested for Hepatitis B?

You should test for Hepatitis B if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or if you inject drugs. If you have returned from travelling to a country that has high levels of Hepatitis B you may wish to take a test for your peace of mind. Men who have sex with men are at higher risk of catching Hepatitis B and should take regular tests. Anyone who is likely to come into contact with infected blood through their job (e.g., health workers, emergency services, and clinical scientists) should test regularly if they are not vaccinated. Both you and your partner should be tested for Hepatitis B before trying to become pregnant as the infection can be passed on to the baby.

You should wait at least 10 days after a potential infection to take the test. If your risk of catching Hepatitis B is high, then you should take a repeat test 4–6 weeks later.

How do I get tested for Hepatitis B?

At Better2Know, you can test for Hepatitis B 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 B, or have a long-term infection. You should receive your results 1–5 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 B is left untreated?

Most people do not need a specific Hepatitis B treatment, other than rest and will fully recover within a couple of months. Hepatitis B can weaken your immune system and increase the risk of catching other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) through unprotected sex. If not correctly diagnosed and monitored, a Hepatitis B infection can lead to long-term liver inflammation, leading to cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver cancer, and liver failure.

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

All pregnant women should be tested for Hepatitis B. If you test positive, then your doctor will do a Hepatitis B viral load blood test. If the viral titre (levels) are high you will be given an anti-viral treatment. If you are pregnant and have Hepatitis B, there is a risk of transmitting the virus to your baby. This risk can be minimised, and your midwife will be able to help you to do so. Your baby can have a vaccine in the first 24 hours after birth to prevent long-term damage to their liver. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Better2Know or your midwife.

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

There is currently no Hepatitis B cure. Despite most people not needing treatment for Hepatitis B, other than rest, it is important to contact your doctor. This is because careful monitoring of the infection is essential to minimise liver damage.

If you have a long-term infection lasting for more than 6 months, then you will be referred to an expert in liver disease (hepatologist) and/or general disorders of the liver and digestion (gastroenterologist). They may treat you with anti-viral medicines to limit liver damage.

If you test positive for Hepatitis B then it is recommended that all household members get vaccinated if they are not already. Better2Know can help you with this, please see our vaccine page for more information.

How is Hepatitis B treated?

Most people recover from Hepatitis B within a few weeks without any medical treatment. You should not drink alcohol, get plenty of rest, and have a healthy diet. The infection should be monitored by a doctor for signs of long-term inflammation.

If the infection becomes long-term, you will need anti-viral medication to control the virus and minimise liver damage. For long-term infections, regular injections may be given to boost the immune system and help fight the infection. These may need to be taken for up to 6 months, during which time you will also receive support and monitoring from your doctor. The response to these medications differs from person to person and symptoms may worsen when the treatment is stopped. The virus can become resistant to Hepatitis B medications meaning they will no longer work. Some people find the side effects of treatment too much and stop the treatment.

Detecting the infection early is the best way to prevent long-term infection. As there are often no symptoms of Hepatitis B the only way to confirm an infection is by testing.

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 B infection to others and provide you with a treatment plan.

Can Hepatitis B come back?

Once you have had Hepatitis B and recovered you should have lifelong immunity to the virus and cannot be infected by the virus again. Your body will normally clear the Hepatitis B infection in 6 months.

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

You should not have sex until you are no longer infectious, or your partner(s) have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B. This prevents the spread of the virus to others. If you are not sure then you should schedule another Hepatitis B test to be certain you have cleared the virus from your body.

How do I book a Hepatitis B 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.

microscope Our testing is conducted at accredited laboratories.
privacy Your personal data is treated safely and securely.
usersYou are supported by our excellent patient care team, available 24/7.
meeting icon

Need help? Contact one of our expert advisors.

Always 100% confidential and completely anonymous

Call 5808 6571

Not sure what you want to be tested for? We can help