STI Spotlight: Hepatitis B – What You Need to Know

As part of our series spotlighting STI’s, this month we’re looking at Hepatitis B.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are an infection that can be passed on between sexual partners during unprotected sexual contact. There are more than 25 STIs which can be spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex.

They are unfortunately common amongst all age groups, which is why it’s important to understand what they are, the symptoms you may experience and how they are treated.

It’s important to start breaking the stigma surrounding STIs by showing that they aren’t something to be embarrassed about and, in most cases, can be very simple and quick to get treated.

So, let’s have a look at what Hepatitis B is and what you need to know about it.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B, or Hep B for short, is a viral infection that primarily affects the liver. It’s not just an STI; it can also be transmitted through contact with infected blood, sharing needles, or even from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. So, it’s essential to be in the know!

Spotting the Signs: What Are the Symptoms?

Hepatitis B can be a bit of a chameleon – it doesn’t always show its true colours. Some folks may experience no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages. But when it does, here’s what you might notice:

  • Flu-Like Symptoms: You might feel like you have the flu with fatigue, fever, and body aches.
  • Jaundice: Your skin and the whites of your eyes may turn yellow, a sign that your liver is having a tough time.
  • Dark Urine and Pale Stools: Your pee might get darker, and your stools could become pale.
  • Abdominal Pain: Some people experience pain or discomfort in the abdomen, especially in the area around the liver.

But remember, symptoms can vary from person to person, and some may not experience any at all.

Get Tested, Stay Informed: The Tests You Can Take

Getting tested for Hepatitis B is essential for early detection and management. Here’s how you can get tested:

  • Blood Test: A simple blood test can detect Hepatitis B. It’s quick and easy.
  • Screening for High-Risk Groups: If you’re in a high-risk group, like healthcare workers or individuals with multiple sexual partners, regular screenings are crucial.

Suffolk Sexual Health Service offers a range of confidential testing options. Use our online Personal Health Record to order an online test.

Remember, Hepatitis B can be asymptomatic, so testing is the only way to know for sure.

Taking on Hep B: What’s the Treatment?

If you test positive for Hepatitis B, don’t fret – there are treatment options available. Suffolk Sexual Health Service can help you navigate the best course of action. Here’s what you might expect:

  • Antiviral Medications: For chronic Hepatitis B, antiviral medications can help slow down the virus and protect your liver.
  • Liver Monitoring: Regular check-ups are essential to monitor your liver’s health and track the progress of the infection.
  • Vaccination: If you haven’t been vaccinated against Hepatitis B, it’s not too late! The vaccine is highly effective in preventing future infections although may not be offered to everyone. Speak to your clinic to see if you are at higher risk of contracting Hep B and if a vaccination is recommended.
  • Lifestyle Changes: It’s important to take care of your liver by avoiding alcohol, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Remember, early diagnosis and prompt treatment can make a significant difference in managing Hepatitis B.

Prevention is Key: Protect Yourself

Preventing Hepatitis B is as important as managing it. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and others:

  • Vaccination: Speak to your clinic to see if you are at higher risk of contracting Hep B and if a vaccination is recommended.
  • Safe Sex: Always practice safe sex by using condoms and avoiding sharing needles. Download our eC-Card app to order free condoms.
  • Screening: Regular screenings are essential if you’re in a high-risk group. Essex Sexual Health Service can guide you on the right schedule.

Closing Thoughts

Hepatitis B may seem like a big, scary topic, but with the right knowledge and support, it’s something you can tackle head-on. Essex Sexual Health Service is here to provide information, testing, and support to help you stay on top of your sexual health.

So, remember to get tested, stay informed, and protect yourself. Your health is worth it! 💪

For more information and resources, visit the Suffolk Sexual Health Service website. Stay informed, stay safe, and take care of yourself! 🌟

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