Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect and damage the liver.

Hepatitis C: an overview

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect and damage the liver. It is usually transmitted through blood-to-blood contact.

It isn't commonly transmitted through vaginal sex, but it can be transmitted through certain types of sex, which are more at risk of bleeding.

Click here for more information on hepatitis C.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?

During the early stage of infection there may not be any symptoms.

If symptoms do develop at this stage it is usually within the first six months after infection and they can be easily mistaken for another condition.

Symptoms can include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and loss of appetite, high temperature
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Depression
  • One in five people will experience yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Sickness and diarrhoea.
How does Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood to blood contact. Examples include:

  • Sharing needles when injecting drugs and through sharing other drug equipment
  • Use of unsterilized equipment when getting a tattoo or body piercing
  • Sharing razors or toothbrushes that are contaminated with infected blood.

It isn't commonly transmitted through vaginal sex, but it can be transmitted through certain types of sex which are more at risk of bleeding.

Gay or bisexual men can be more at risk of acquiring hepatitis C if:

  • They are living with HIV
  • They have chemsex, especially if injecting drugs
  • They are taking part in group sex, without using condoms
  • They are into fisting or sharing sex toys, without using gloves or condom.
How do I know if I've got it?

You can only be certain you have hepatitis if you have a blood test. You can be tested at a sexual health clinic (axess), GP surgery, or drug treatment service.

If you think you might have hepatitis C, get in touch with your nearest sexual health clinic.

You can find information on the locations and contact details of all axess clinics here.

Can it be treated?

Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medicines designed to stop the virus from multiplying inside the body and to prevent liver damage. The sooner treatment begins after exposure to the hepatitis C virus, the more likely it is to succeed.

If the virus is cleared with treatment, you are not immune to future infections of hepatitis C.

How can it be prevented?

You can prevent the transmission of hepatitis C in the following ways:

  • Never share any drug-injecting equipment with other people (not just needles, but also syringes, spoons and filters)
  • Don’t get tattoos or piercings from unlicensed places
  • Don't share razors, toothbrushes, or towels that might be contaminated with blood
  • Use a condom, especially with a new partner, for anal and oral sex
  • Avoid group sex that doesn't involve condoms for penetrative sex.
What will happen if I have Hepatitis C but I don't get it treated?

Some people can clear the virus at the early stage of infection. However, some people will not be able to fight off the infection. This leads to a long term infection called chronic hepatitis.

Hepatitis C can lead to problems with your liver, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), often years after catching the infection.