Facts

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is caused by a virus that attacks the liver and causes inflammation.

There are various viruses that cause different types of hepatitis (Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E and G). The most common forms are Hepatitis A, B and C.

Hepatitis often, but not always, leads to symptoms such as headaches and flu-like symptoms, tiredness and aching in the body. Loss of appetite and vomiting are other possible symptoms. The skin and eye whites become jaundiced (yellow). Hepatitis C, however, is an exception, see below. But not everyone has symptoms, which means that people can live with hepatitis without realizing it. It is therefore a good idea to get tested regularly, particularly if you’ve exposed yourself to potential infection. It also shows consideration for others as you can avoid passing the virus on to someone else.

Most forms of hepatitis clear up by themselves, but sometimes a chronic variant of the infection can develop. People with a chronic hepatitis infection can still live a more or less normal life. The risk of infection should, however be taken into account. Also, alcohol should be avoided since it damages the liver.

Hepatitis is classified as a danger to public health in Sweden’s Communicable Diseases Act, which means that if tests show you have hepatitis you must carry out an infection trace, also known as a partner trace. In order to find others who may have hepatitis, you’ll be asked who you’ve had sex with recently. It may feel a bit strange, but it’s a good way of showing consideration for the people you’ve had sex with. It gives them an opportunity to check that they’re healthy. This is what an infection trace is – sounds kinda weird, but it’s a great thing! Remember that you must also get tested if you think you may have contracted hepatitis.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is usually caught through food. The virus can also be spread through excrement, which means it can be passed on if you don’t wash your hands carefully, or during rimming (i.e. licking ass). The infection is rare in Sweden but occurs more frequently in many other countries, such as some countries in Asia and Africa. Good personal hygiene and washing your hands carefully when in countries with poor hygiene standards are good ways of avoiding Hepatitis A. The virus can also live for a long time in mussels and oysters, for example.

The virus causes an inflammation of the liver, which is then unable to break down certain substances. You may also become more sensitive to alcohol and some medications.

Hepatitis A cannot be treated. The infection does, however, often heal by itself. It is only in very rare cases that the infection can lead to cellular tissue death in the liver (liver necrosis). There is an effective vaccine that protects against the infection. Talk to the staff at your health center, vaccination clinic or where you get tested. Once you’ve had Hepatitis A you’re generally immune for the rest of your life, and therefore can’t catch the infection again.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is spread through blood and bodily fluids. Blood transfusions and open wounds are possible routes of infection, along with sharing syringes and needles. The virus is also spread through sexual contact. You can stop the spread of Hepatitis B by not sharing syringes and needles with other people, and by using a condom during different kinds of sex.

The virus causes an inflammation of the liver, which is then unable to break down certain substances. You may also become more sensitive to alcohol and some medications. The infection can also affect the body’s hormones and blood coagulation.

Hepatitis B cannot be treated but it usually heals by itself. In exceptional cases the infection can become chronic. Once you’ve had Hepatitis B you’re usually immune against the infection for the rest of your life. There is an effective vaccine against Hepatitis B. If you’re a man who has sex with other men, you’re entitled to free vaccination at Venhälsan, the Gay Men’s Health Clinic in Stockholm. Otherwise you can go to a health center or vaccination clinic.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is spread through blood, blood transfusions and by sharing syringes and needles. In rare cases the infection can be spread through sex. Half of those who contract the infection develop a variant which is chronic.

Since 1992 all blood aimed for transfusions in Sweden is tested for Hepatitis C. If you received a blood transfusion before then, you should get tested in case you got infected by the transfusion.

Unlike other forms of hepatitis, Hepatitis C rarely has any symptoms at all. Only a few people show symptoms in the form of jaundiced (yellowish) skin and eye whites, nausea and fatigue. As the infection is hard to detect, it’s important to get tested, especially if you think you may have caught Hep C. By getting tested regularly you can reduce the risk of passing the infection on to others.

Hepatitis C might heal by itself, but if the infection remains in the body for a long time there is a risk of a chronic form of Hepatitis C developing, which in time can cause liver damage. Treatment cures about half of those who test positive.

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