Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver. People infected with Hepatitis B present with a range of symptoms. The infection, in most cases, is acute which in effect clears itself after a short while but in 20% of cases, it results in chronic condition if you still remain infected after six months. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to severe health problems such as cirrhosis and liver failure, and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B can be spread through sexual and non-sexual contact with contaminated body fluids. Just a small amount of infected blood is needed because the virus is highly infectious. The virus can be found in saliva, vaginal secretions, breast milk, and all other body fluids.
The most common ways of getting hepatitis B is through having unprotected sex with an infected person and sharing contaminated needles, razors, and contact with broken skin.
Contrary to common belief, Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted through kissing (unless the person infected has a mouth ulcer), coughing, sneezing, sharing towels, cutleries, or a toilet seat.
Like most sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Hepatitis B infection is unlikely to present with any specific symptoms. This makes testing for STIs important. It is equally hard to define as symptoms are similar to that of other conditions making it difficult to determine if the problem is caused by Hepatitis B. The symptoms include tiredness, fever, aches, vomiting, high temperature, dark urine, and jaundice. Jaundice is a condition where the skin and whites of your eyes become yellow. This is due to the inability of the liver to expel bilirubin.
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If Hepatitis B is undetected and not treated, it can weaken the body's immune system and increases your risk of contracting HIV and other STIs if exposed. When the infection becomes chronic, it leads to cirrhosis in 20% of patients and liver cancer in 5% of patients. With underlying chronic Hepatitis B, the immune system identifies the liver (where the virus hides) as a foreign body and attacks it, causing the liver to become extensively damaged. Chronic Hepatitis B can be prevented by getting a simple early testing at our clinic and getting the necessary advice and treatment.
An infected pregnant woman is also a risk to her baby during pregnancy, at childbirth and while breastfeeding which will then become infected.
There are vaccines for hepatitis B readily available. You can get vaccinated against this virus very easily which will give you life-long protection.
A small amount of blood is all that is needed. The blood can also be used to test for other STIs. After the test, the result will be made available to you within 24 hours.
You can also get Hepatitis B testing as part of the general STIs testing at the Sexual Health Clinic.
For the majority of people with Hepatitis B resting and taking painkillers is sufficient to aid recovery with a few weeks. However if the disease reaches the chronic stage i.e. over six months to a year, medications are used to control the virus and prevent liver damage.
There is no need to worry because if you are tested positive our doctors at Sexual Health Clinic will advise and recommend what you need to do next. We would also refer you to a specialist who will carry out further tests and may recommend antiviral treatment to help clear the virus quicker.
It is important to change, if infected with Hepatitis B, normal everyday activities and live a more sedate lifestyle:
Whether you are showing symptoms of the infection or not following this list of dos and don’ts will add to your wellbeing and aid in your quick recovery.