Some people may exhibit symptoms of acute Hepatitis B, but a majority of the people with chronic Hepatitis B can remain symptom-free for 20-30 years. Serious liver damage can occur in 15-25% of the people with chronic Hepatitis B such as cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver failure and liver cancer. Some people still may not know they have liver disease caused by Hepatitis B due to lack of symptoms – only blood tests for liver function may reveal abnormalities.
Symptoms of acute Hepatitis B virus infection will typically manifest in older children and adults. About 70% of adults and children over the age of 5 with the infection will develop symptoms.
Symptoms (if they manifest themselves) of acute Hepatitis B can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or the eyes)
- Joint pain
Typically, symptoms develop an average of 90 days (range: 60 – 150 days) after exposure to the virus, but they can appear anytime between 6 weeks and 6 months after initial exposure.
Symptoms may only last a few weeks, but sometimes can persist for up to 6 months. Many infected with the Hepatitis B virus show no symptoms, but they can still spread the disease.
Visit your doctor if you think you may have Hepatitis B. Since symptoms are often not seen nor experienced, the disease usually needs to be diagnosed via blood tests. Such tests search for the presence of antigens and antibodies to help determine if you have:
- Acute or chronic infection
- Recovered from infection
- An immunity to Hepatitis B
- The potential to benefit from vaccination