Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes damage to the liver. There are different types of this virus which are responsible for Hepatitis C, but the most common in the UK are types 1 and 3. Over 210,000 people are infected with Hepatitis C making it a frequent infection in the UK. Most people aren’t even aware that they have Hepatitis C because the symptoms are not always noticeable until it is too late. This makes testing for Hepatitis C very important to avoid suffering the severe conditions in the later stages associated with this infection.
Hepatitis C is transmitted through contaminated blood via shared needles or sores or cuts from an infected person. About 45% of people using recreational, intravenous drugs are positive for Hepatitis C. Having vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person also increases your risk.
Another common route of transmission is from contaminated un-sterilised needles used from piercings or tattoo equipment. Sharing personal items like razors and toothbrushes with an infected person can also cause infection.
Receiving medical attention in developing countries with limited sterilising equipment can also result in infection with Hepatitis C. Blood transfusions in the UK before 1991 was a common occurrence whereby Hepatitis C was contracted.
Hepatitis C can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.
Men who have sex with men are also at increased risk of Hepatitis C.
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The majority of people infected with Hepatitis C present with symptoms of the later chronic stage of infection because in the early stages they have no symptoms.
Individuals with chronic Hepatitis C are always fatigued, and 30% of infected people go on to develop liver cirrhosis.
You can be tested for Hepatitis C at our Sexual Health Clinic. We require a small amount of blood which can also be tested for other STIs which we recommend for early detection screening and subsequent treatment.
After testing your sample the results are available within 20 minutes. The test results for additional STIs take a bit longer and are usually available within 24 hours.
If you tested positive to Hepatitis C, advice and treatment is offered which in 90% of cases is effective. The treatment reduces the infection and subsequent scarring of the liver. Living a healthier lifestyle will contribute to enhancing your recovery. (Fewer people recover from the infection without medication and treatment.)
If your test result is positive, our doctors will refer you to a specialist. Further tests will need to be carried out to determine the extent of your infection. The result of these tests will determine the suitable treatment for you.
Treatment usually involves antiviral drugs to help the body's immune system. During treatment, you will be asked to be aware of your body's reaction to the medication and report any side effects however modern treatments for Hepatitis C nowadays have limited side effects.