Hepatitis B is a severe liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). One of the main ways that it can be contracted is through sexual contact, and therefore it is classified as an STI. It’s recommended that you know your STI status by getting tested.
- Sexual contact: You can contract HBV from having unprotected sex with someone who is already infected. The virus is spread through bodily fluids such as blood; semen; saliva or vaginal secretions.
- Sharing needles: HBV can be easily spread through syringes and needles that are tainted with infected blood. Sharing any intravenous (IV) drug paraphernalia significantly increases your risk of getting the disease.
- Mother to child: Pregnant women who are infected with HBV can pass the virus to their baby during childbirth, but the new-born can receive a vaccination.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hepatitis B symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
Please note that young children may have the virus without presenting any symptoms.
Acute vs Chronic Hepatitis B
According to the Mayo Clinic, ‘hepatitis B infection may be either short-lived (acute) or long-lasting (chronic).’
Acute hepatitis B infection
Hepatitis B is considered to be acute if it lasts less than six months. Your immune system will likely be able to fight it off; you should be fully recovered within a few months. Adults usually get an acute infection; however, it can become a chronic infection.
Chronic hepatitis B infection
Conversely, if hepatitis B lasts more than six months or longer, it’s diagnosed as a chronic infection. Your immune system has become compromised and is unable to fight it off. The disease can lead to serious medical conditions such as liver cirrhosis (scarring) and liver cancer, which can lead to liver failure.
- Practice safe sex: Please remember to use contraception every time you and your partner have sex. There are different types of birth control methods. It’s important that you speak to each other about which forms of contraception will suit you best.
- Hepatitis B vaccine: If you weren’t vaccinated as a child, ask your doctor for more information about the HBV vaccine. It usually comprises of three to four injections over six months.
- Don’t use illegal drugs: If you are using intravenous drugs such as heroin, get the assistance that you need to beat the addiction. As mentioned above, sharing needles puts you at a high risk of contracting the virus.
If you are diagnosed with acute hepatitis B, the virus should be fought off by your immune system. In some instances, your doctor will prescribe antiviral medications.
The majority of people who are diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B will usually need treatment indefinitely. It may include
- Interferon injections
- Antiviral medications
- Liver transplant
Marie Stopes is here to help you, always
The purpose of Marie Stopes is to care for women’s sexual and reproductive health. We offer a variety of essential services such as STI and HIV testing, as well as a comprehensive Women’s Wellness package. Furthermore, if you have an unintended pregnancy and wish to terminate, we offer safe abortion services performed by a medical professional in a clean, easily accessible clinic.
Would you like to speak to one of our professionals about hepatitis B and other STIs? Schedule an appointment at your nearest centre.