Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
What is it?
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection affecting the liver, a vital organ of the body.
How do I catch it?
The most common way to catch hepatitis C is by sharing contaminated needles, spoons, and/or filters to inject drugs. This can include injecting anabolic steroids or recreational drugs (“slamming”) .
There are other ways to catch hepatitis C, such as transmission from mother to child.
Increasingly, people are being found to have caught hepatitis C during procedures carried out abroad, where the instruments used have not been properly sterilised. This can include medical or dental procedures, tattoos or piercings, or the use of non-sterile razors in barber shops. This known to be a risk in areas including Asia, Africa, South America, Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
It’s also possible to catch hepatitis C by having unprotected sex with an infected person.
It is not caught by normal social contact, such as hugging, kissing, sharing kitchen utensils, or from a toilet seat.
Many people do not experience any symptoms when they first become infected with hepatitis C.
Some people may have vague flu-like symptoms including tiredness, loss of appetite, joint pains and nausea some weeks after being infected.
Some infected people remain well throughout their lives and develop no problems with their liver.
However, other people can develop longstanding (chronic) hepatitis C infection and can have symptoms of liver damage, such as jaundice (yellow skin and eyes, and dark urine), ongoing tiredness, nausea, vomiting or unexplained weight loss. Long-term liver damage can cause cirrhosis, which, without treatment, can eventually lead to liver failure, which is life-threatening.
People who have developed cirrhosis because of hepatitis C infection are also at increased risk of developing liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is diagnosed by a simple blood test. The results are usually available within two weeks.
Please speak to your GP or our clinic staff about testing.
You can only receive treatment for Hepatitis C if you know you have it. The only way of knowing is to take a test. It’s important to detect and treat the virus before it does any serious damage to the liver.
If you are found to have hepatitis C you will be referred to a liver specialist. Very effective treatments are available, and in most people the virus can be cleared. This means the infection is cured.
Detailed information on STIs is available on the NHS website.
See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on sexually transmitted infections.
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) website also features a range of downloadable leaflets on STIs.