Is Hepatitis an STD?

Reviewed on 9/23/2021

There are several types of hepatitis, an infection and inflammation of the liver, some of which can be transmitted sexually (particularly hepatitis B).
There are several types of hepatitis, an infection and inflammation of the liver, some of which can be transmitted sexually (particularly hepatitis B).

Hepatitis is an infection and inflammation of the liver. There are several types of infectious hepatitis, caused by different viruses. Some types of hepatitis, particularly hepatitis B, can be transmitted sexually. 

The three main viral types of hepatitis include Hepatitis A, B and C, and are explained in the chart below.

3 Main Types of Hepatitis Chart
Type Symptoms
Hepatitis A
  • This is a short-term infection and most patients recover without treatment within about 2 months
  • It can be prevented with a vaccine
  • The hepatitis A virus can be transmitted through sexual activity with an infected person, particularly men who have sex with other men, and people who live with or have sex with an infected person, or inject drugs
Hepatitis B
  • This can cause acute or chronic infection
  • Most patients recover within 6 months but some patients develop a long-term infection that can result in liver damage
  • It can be prevented with a vaccine
  • Hepatitis B is more commonly transmitted through sexual contact and injection-drug use 
  • People at highest risk of contracting hepatitis B include people who have multiple sex partners, along with sex partners of people with chronic hepatitis B infection
Hepatitis C
  • This can cause acute or chronic infection that can lead to liver damage and severe scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver and an increased risk of liver cancer
  • There's no vaccine to prevent it
  • Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity, though it is uncommon
  • People who have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), have sex with multiple partners, and engage in anal sex are at increased risk for contracting hepatitis C

Other Hepatitis Types

Other types of viral hepatitis include hepatitis D, which only develops in people who have hepatitis B, and hepatitis E, which is more common in parts of the developing world where there is poor sanitation.

What Are Symptoms of Hepatitis?

Many people with hepatitis have no symptoms when they first contract the virus. When symptoms of hepatitis A, B, or C occur, they include: 

Hepatitis A may also cause additional symptoms, such as:

  • Itchy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Liver damage that can lead to death (rare)

Most people with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. When symptoms of hepatitis C occur, they may include the above and:

Over time, hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Swelling in the belly and legs, and fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion that can come on suddenly
  • Coma
  • Increased risk of developing liver cancer

How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed?

Viral hepatitis is diagnosed with a patient history, a physical examination, and blood tests. Blood tests show which type of hepatitis is present and can be used to determine the proper treatment. 

Other tests may be indicated to check for liver damage, including: 

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Is Hepatitis Curable?

Each type of hepatitis is treated differently. 

Hepatitis A often goes away on its own. Home treatment to help the liver recover, usually includes: 

  • Rest
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding certain medicines that can be harmful to the liver (never stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor)

Hepatitis B often goes away on its own in about 6 months, and can also be treated at home with the above remedies. Other treatments for hepatitis B include: 

  • Antiviral medications 
  • Regular monitoring for signs of liver damage
  • Liver transplant in severe cases

Medications for hepatitis C are effective on certain forms of the hepatitis C virus. The choice of medications depends on the type of hepatitis C you have, whether you have been treated for the illness before, how much liver damage has occurred, any other underlying medical issues, and other medicines you take. Treatment for hepatitis C usually involves 8 to 12 weeks of oral antiviral medications, such as:

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Reviewed on 9/23/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hepatitis-a-the-basics?search=hepatitis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hepatitis-b-the-basics?search=hepatitis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=3~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=3

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hepatitis-c-the-basics?search=hepatitis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=4~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=4

https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/populations/stds.htm