Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do you get hepatitis from unprotected sex?"
I've had unprotected sex and I'm worried about all the different diseases you can get. Can you get hepatitis from unprotected sex? Should I get tested if I have had unprotected sex?
The word hepatitis means (inflammation of the liver). It can be caused by many conditions, but the viral infections of the liver that cause hepatitis is the type that can be passed from one person to another. There are many different types of viral hepatitis, but the most common are hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A usually causes damage to the liver that is only temporary. It is like catching the flu. People feel bad for a few weeks and the liver is damaged but, usually heals fairly quickly. Hepatitis A is caught by eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages. It is most common in countries where sanitation is an issue. Hepatitis A can be caught in the US, so now we vaccinate all kids for hepatitis A. Hepatitis B is caught through either sexual contact or sharing of blood products (such as sharing needles). It can cause symptoms similar to hepatitis A, but often causes a long term disease that can include cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Most kids are vaccinated against hepatitis B. Hepatitis C is one that is spread through sharing blood products, but in rare cases can be passed sexually. It usually produces a chronic hepatitis and is also associated with cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure. So the answer to your question is yes, you can catch hepatitis B and (more rarely) hepatitis C sexually. We do not routinely test people for these conditions even if you have had unprotected sex. The next thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to make sure that you have been vaccinated against hepatitis B and A. Good luck.
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