Hepatitis B

  • Symptoms

    After you first become infected with the hepatitis B virus:

    • You may have no symptoms
    • You may feel sick for a period of days or weeks
    • You may become very ill (called fulminant hepatitis)

    If your body is able to fight off the hepatitis B infection, any symptoms that you had should go away over a period of weeks to months.

    Some people's bodies are not able to completely get rid of the hepatitis B infection. This is called chronic hepatitis B.

    Many people who have chronic hepatitis B have few or no symptoms. They may not even look sick. As a result, they may not know they are infected. However, they can still spread the virus to other people.

    Symptoms may not appear for up to 6 months after the time of infection. Early symptoms may include:

    • Appetite loss
    • Fatigue
    • Fever, low-grade
    • Muscle and joint aches
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Yellow skin and dark urine due to jaundice

    People with chronic hepatitis may have no symptoms, even though gradual liver damage may be occurring. Over time, some people may develop symptoms of chronic liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver.

    Signs and tests

    The following tests are done to identify and monitor liver damage from hepatitis B:

    • Albumin level
    • Liver function tests
    • Prothrombin time

    The following tests are done to help diagnose and monitor people with hepatitis B:

    • Antibody to HBsAg (Anti-HBs) -- a positive result means you have either had hepatitis B in the past, or have received a hepatitis B vaccine
    • Antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (Anti-HBc) -- a positive result means you had a recent infection or an infection in the past
    • Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) -- a positive result means you have an active infection
    • Hepatitis E surface antigen (HBeAg) -- a positive result means you have a hepatitis B infection and are more likely to spread the infection to others through sexual contact or sharing needles

    Patients with chronic hepatitis will need ongoing blood tests to monitor their status.