Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.
It can be caused by several viruses that can be passed on during sex, by drinking too much alcohol for too long and other causes.
Some people with Hepatitis C virus may develop liver problems or liver cancer later in life.
What is hepatitis and how is it caught?
Men's testicles (balls) can become inflamed and uncomfortable.
Viral hepatitis is caused by a group of viruses (A, B, C, D and E).
Hepatitis A and E are present in the digestive system and are caught by swallowing faeces or by mouth contact with the area around the anus.
Hepatitis B, C and D are present in all body fluids and can be spread during sex.
Hepatitis B is the most infectious and easily spread during sex, though cases of Hepatitis C are often linked to some kinds of sex between men.
You can only get Hepatitis D if you already have Hepatitis B.
All forms of the virus can cause an inflammation of the liver.
How can I avoid catching hepatitis?
If you're going to have sex, always use a condom (or a dam for oral sex with a woman) and have safer sex.
Never share needles used for injecting drugs or other substances.
Most people won't notice any hepatitis symptoms when first infected. If there are symptoms, you may have some or all of the following:
- a slight temperature
- poor appetite
- discomfort around your abdomen
- a slight yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes.
Most people recover after a few weeks but some people's bodies can't get rid of the Hepatitis B or C virus. They may feel better but still carry the virus and can pass it on to others.
The only way to find out if you have a hepatitis virus is to get tested.
Hepatitis testing done by giving a blood sample to look for signs of the virus called antibodies.
If these are found, a second blood test is carried out to find out if the virus itself is still in your body or if you've 'cleared' it naturally.
Even if you don't have symptoms but have had sex with someone you think has hepatitis, you should get tested.
If you have a partner, you should both be tested.
If the results are positive, you should inform any recent sexual partners so they can be tested too. Sexual health clinics can help with this.
You can get tested by your GP or at your local sexual health service.
If your body can't clear an infection with Hepatitis B or C by itself, you will need to see a liver specialist. You may be offered treatments to help clear the infection.
Vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.