Hepatitis B is a cause of viral hepatitis, which is an acute condition that can affect your liver. In some cases, acute hepatitis will progress and become chronic hepatitis, which can cause different health complications. There are many different ways to get hepatitis, including sexual transmission. So, is hepatitis B considered to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
Keep reading to find out if hepatitis B is an STD.
Is hepatitis B an STD?
Hepatitis B and other types of viral hepatitis can be transmitted through sexual contact. As a result, hepatitis B is considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). According to the CDC, as many as 10 to 40 percent of adults who seek treatment for a different STD also have evidence of a past hepatitis B infection. Other types of viral hepatitis that can be transmitted through unprotected sex include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis D (this virus can only be transmitted to people who are also infected with the hepatitis B virus)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis B is still a major global health problem. Millions of people are infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) around the world, especially in the Western Pacific region and Africa. Approximately 7 percent of people living with HIV also have hepatitis B.
How is hepatitis B transmitted?
Despite the fact that hepatitis B is considered to be an STI, you can still get this virus through other routes of transmission. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the ways in which hepatitis B can be spread include:
- Unprotected sexual contact
- Sharing needles
- Infected tattoo needles or piercing guns
- Accidental needle sticks in healthcare settings
- From mother to child during childbirth
- Being bitten by someone with the infection
- Sharing sex toys without protection
In areas with a high prevalence of hepatitis B, the most common ways to get this virus include vertical transmission from mother to child, and unprotected intercourse.
Symptoms of hepatitis B
Not everyone who becomes infected with the hepatitis B virus will develop symptoms. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t go on to develop health complications in the future. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, most people with hepatitis B will remain asymptomatic unless their disease progresses; in other cases, they will only develop mild, nonspecific symptoms.
Acute hepatitis B can also produce symptoms that include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes)
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Skin rash
- Edema (swelling)
- Loss of appetite
According to Avert, most cases of acute hepatitis B will go away on their own within a few months. In rare cases, acute hepatitis B can be fatal. But if hepatitis B doesn’t resolve itself within six months, it can progress to chronic hepatitis.
Chronic hepatitis B can become a lifelong disease, and it can lead to health complications such as:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Liver cancer
- Liver failure
Can hepatitis B be treated?
Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment that can eliminate the hepatitis B virus from your system. According to the Cleveland Clinic, most cases of acute hepatitis B will only need rest, plenty of fluids, and a healthy diet to help you recover.
But if you develop chronic hepatitis, your doctor could recommend certain treatments. These drugs can’t clear the virus from your system, but they can help prevent complications and slow the progression of hepatic disease. Patients with chronic hepatitis also need regular monitoring to check for signs of liver damage or cancer, since this can help physicians make better decisions for your health.
But the good news is that there is a safe and effective vaccine available against hepatitis B. Most people receive this vaccine soon after they’re born, but if you’re unsure about whether you got your full vaccination schedule, you can receive the vaccination as an adult. It’s even safe for people who have already been vaccinated to get the vaccine again. In fact, this is recommended for certain adults who have risk factors for hepatitis B.
The hepatitis B is given in three or four doses. After the initial dose, you’ll need to wait four weeks for your second shot; then, the third dose is given eight weeks after the second shot. In some cases, your doctor could recommend an additional dose to boost your immune response to the virus.
Getting tested for hepatitis B and other STDs is very important for anyone who is sexually active. Routine testing can lead to an early diagnosis — even if you’re asymptomatic — which can prevent future health problems. Getting treated for any STDs will also stop you from transmitting these infections to your current and future sexual partners.
Nowadays, STD testing is easier than ever thanks to at-home testing. At-home STD tests can be conducted from the privacy of your own home, and medical assistance will be made available to you if you test positive for any STIs. You can learn more about other STDs and testing options at STDWatch.com.
Sexual Transmission and Viral Hepatitis - cdc.gov
Hepatitis B - who.int
Hepatitis B - mayoclinic.org
Hepatitis B - hopkinsmedicine.org
HEPATITIS B SYMPTOMS & TREATMENT - avert.org
Hepatitis B - my.clevelandclinic.org