What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by a virus, which can affect anyone.
Hepatitis A, B and C all affect the liver, but they are different infections with different causes.
How do you get hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C can spread when blood from a person with hepatitis C enters the bloodstream of another person. Hepatitis C can also spread through condomless sex. This can include:
- vaginal, front hole or anal sex (topping or bottoming) without a condom
- sharing toothbrushes, razors, injecting equipment and tattooing or body piercing equipment
- sexual contact with someone who has mouth ulcers, open sores/wounds or bleeding gums
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Some guys will have no symptoms at all.
There is no typical time for any symptoms to appear after exposure. Symptoms may include:
- mild flu-like symptoms, possibly including a fever
- constant tiredness or weakness
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain, often on the right side under the ribs
- joint and muscle pain
- yellow skin and eyes (often called jaundice)
- dark urine
- pale faeces (shit)
How do I get tested for hepatitis C?
A hepatitis C test involves a blood test.
Hepatitis C tests have a window period of three months. This means hepatitis C may not show up on a test if you were exposed within the last three months.
You can get tested at your regular doctor or sexual health service.
How is hepatitis C treated?
Hepatitis C requires medical treatment as it will not go away by itself.
Hepatitis C is treated with a course of medication over 12 weeks, which your doctor will prescribe.
Contact previous sexual partners to let them know they may have been exposed to hepatitis C and should get tested.
After treating hepatitis C, you can still get hepatitis C again in the future.
What are the best ways to prevent hepatitis C?
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Condoms protect against hepatitis C.
As well as condoms, good hygiene helps protect against hepatitis C:
- Use gloves for fisting or heavy arse play
- Avoid sharing sex toys and sterilise them thoroughly after use
- Avoid sharing injecting equipment, and tattooing or body piercing equipment
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes and razors
One of the best ways to help stop the spread of hepatitis C and other STIs is to get tested regularly and treated if necessary.