Hepatitis B Symptoms

Reviewed by Frank Cockerill, MD, Mar. 28, 2017

How would I know if I have hepatitis B?

You can have hepatitis B and not know it. The virus can be detected with a blood test that looks for antibodies or antigens to the virus. The test can diagnose if you have an acute or early infection or if you have been living with hepatitis B for a long time, otherwise known as chronic hepatitis B. The test can also determine if you are immune to hepatitis B because you've had a vaccination.

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Most common hepatitis B symptoms

  • No symptoms at all
  • Nothing looks different or feels different

Less common hepatitis B symptoms

  • Feels like the flu
  • Skin or eyes look yellowish (jaundice)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Pain in the joints
  • Dark urine and dark bowel movements

People with acute hepatitis B who do show signs usually feel like they have the flu.

Flu-like symptoms for acute hepatitis B may show up 6 weeks to 6 months after being infected. The average incubation period (time it takes for signs of infection to show) for the virus is 3 months. Flu-like symptoms may include feeling tired, a lack of hunger, vomiting, belly aches, itchiness, feverish, muscle and joint pain. Jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes) and dark urine are other signs of liver problems from acute hepatitis B.

What are the symptoms of chronic hepatitis B?

Most people with chronic hepatitis B can live without feeling anything at all for 10, 20, 30 years. Over time, about 1 in 4 people living with chronic hepatitis B will develop very serious liver problems, including cancer.

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