Hepatitis C and sex: Transmission, symptoms, and treatment
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a viral infection. This common blood-borne viral infection often spreads through sexual practices that expose people to blood.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes the liver infection hepatitis C. The infection can be short-lived (acute) or long-term (chronic).
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly
This article will explore the sexual transmission of hepatitis C. It will also cover other modes of transmission, hepatitis C diagnosis, and the current treatment options.
Scientists have identified
Genotype 1 is the most common
The virus causes
Someone without HCV can contract the virus through sex without a condom or other barrier method if they come into contact with blood that contains HCV. However, the risk through this mode of transmission is
According to the
Men who have sex with men are at a
Some sexual practices, such as
However, the virus may spread if a person has cuts or breaks in the lining of the mouth or if a person has open sores or bleeding gums.
Certain practices can transmit hepatitis C,
- drug use through injection (also known as injection drug use or IDU) and sharing needles
- improper sterilization and reusing of medical equipment
- use of unscreened blood and blood products in transfusions
- sexual practices that increase the likelihood of blood exposure
Other modes of transmission also exist, but these are low risk or rare. These
- sharing items that have traces of blood, such as toothbrushes or razors
- needlestick injuries in hospital or healthcare settings
- unregulated tattooing
Certain risk factors can increase the chance of HCV transmission. These include:
- having sex without a condom or other barrier method with a person that has hepatitis C
- sharing needles or injecting drugs
- living with HIV, thalassemia, or hemophilia
- being a man who has sex with men
- having had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- working in a healthcare environment where there is an increased risk of blood exposure
- sharing personal items such as toothbrushes and razors
- being born to a mother with hepatitis C
- having multiple sexual partners
According to the World Health Organization,
Symptomatic people may
- decreased appetite
- abdominal pain
- dark urine
- gray-colored stool
- pain in the joints
- yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, known as jaundice
Generally, people with long-term, or chronic, HCV do not have any specific symptoms other than
Early diagnosis can help prevent transmission of the virus to others. Anyone who feels they could have contracted HCV should see a medical professional. A doctor may order a blood test to detect the presence of HCV.
The blood test will look for
If this test is positive, the doctor may order a nucleic acid test for HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA). They use this test to confirm their diagnosis, as
Tests can detect HCV RNA levels as early as
People can get a test for HCV at their local general practitioner, hospital, or dedicated sexual health clinic.
If a person thinks they may have contracted HCV from sexual intercourse, they can also get tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- all adults over the age of 18 at least once in a lifetime
- all pregnant women during each pregnancy
Doctors use antiviral medication to treat hepatitis C. Some people may not require treatment if their immune system can clear the infection.
According to the CDC,
Examples of medications that doctors may prescribe to treat hepatitis C include:
- peginterferon alfa-2a
According to the World Health Organization, approximately
Furthermore, antiviral medication can cure over 95% of people with hepatitis C infection.
The outlook for acute HCV infection is generally good. While some may spontaneously clear the infection, most people can clear the infection with antiviral medication.
According to the CDC, of every 100 people who contract HCV,
There is currently
The most effective methods of prevention are avoiding practices that increase the risk of transmitting or contracting hepatitis C. These include:
- education and counseling on treatment options
- immunization with hepatitis A and B vaccines
- regular monitoring for early detection of chronic liver disease
- early medical management
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus. It causes liver damage and inflammation and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The risk of transmitting and contracting hepatitis C during sexual intercourse or oral sex is low. However, certain sexual practices can increase the risk.
Data has shown a higher risk of HCV transmission in men who have sex with men. The risk is also higher in people who use injected drugs.
Doctors can treat and potentially cure hepatitis C. People should see a medical professional for diagnosis and appropriate treatment. As there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, prevention methods and education are the most effective methods to reduce the risk of transmission.