Sexual health: Hepatitis C STI questions

What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by many types of the virus; types 1 and 3 are the most common in the UK.

It is considered a common infection with around 210,000 people in the UK living with chronic Hepatitis C. Many more are thought to be infected but do not know because they have not yet been diagnosed.

How can I catch Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C can be passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral intercourse as well as body contact, as the virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. One common route is through sharing needles when injecting recreational drugs – nearly 45% of intravenous drug users have contracted Hepatitis C in this way.

Similarly, it can be caught by having a tattoo or body piercing with equipment that has not been properly sterilised, and by sharing toothbrushes or razors. If you have had an accidental needle stick injury, then you should be tested for Hepatitis C along with Hepatitis B and HIV.

Hepatitis C can also be caught through medical treatment in developing countries, blood transfusions (before 1991 in the UK) or from mother to baby during pregnancy and/or birth. Sexual transmission is extremely rare in monogamous heterosexual couples but there is an increased risk of infection for homosexual men.

What are the symptoms and signs of Hepatitis C?
Like many Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), there are often no symptoms at first, which is why it is important to get tested regularly, especially if you have ever been at risk. Symptoms, if they occur, can include feeling tired, having aching limbs, and suffering from digestive problems and brain fog.

STI / STD facts from Tocolo Health and Wellbeing Clinic

80% of people with acute Hepatitis C do not show any symptoms.

Did you know? STI / STD facts from Tocolo Health and Wellbeing Clinic

How can Hepatitis C be tested/checked?
To test for Hepatitis C a small blood sample is required. Results for Hepatitis C tests are available within 1 working day after we receive your sample. Instant testing is available, giving you results in around 20 minutes. If you test positive for Hepatitis C, Tocolo will refer you back to your own GP.

If you’ve got Hepatitis C STI questions, you are very welcome to get in contact.

What are the risks associated with Hepatitis C?
About 75% of people infected with Hepatitis C develop a chronic condition. Many people are unaware they have a problem and by the time they become ill and seek help, considerable damage to the liver has already occurred. In chronic cases, people will have intermittent symptoms of fatigue, and up to 30% will develop cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years. Therefore, it is important to get tested regularly and, if necessary, to start a treatment plan.

What if I test positive for Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C can be treated with medication which can clear the infection in more than 90% of people. Even if the virus is not completely cleared, treatment can help to reduce inflammation and scarring of the liver. Many people also find that a complementary lifestyle helps to cope with symptoms and improve their quality of life.

If you test positive for Hepatitis C, Tocolo Health & Wellbeing Clinic will advise you to see a specialist. You will need to have further tests to determine the effect of the virus on your body and the most appropriate treatment options for you. In some people, their immune system will fight off the virus on its own, but careful monitoring of the infection is always necessary.

Treatment may include antiviral drugs to help your body combat the effects of the virus. You will be advised to have regular check-ups to monitor your body’s reaction to the drugs. There are several new treatments available which have few side effects and have proven to be highly effective in eliminating the Hepatitis C virus.

Individuals with a chronic Hepatitis C infection should be seen by a hospital liver specialist for monitoring and to assess suitability for treatment.

Information about STIs / STDs from Tocolo Health and Wellbeing Clinic

Here’s our information pages about STIs / STDs

We hope our Hepatitis C STI questions and answers have been helpful, here questions and answers on other STIs.

Herpes 1 & 2      
Hepatitis B      
Hepatitis C