Symptoms of Hepatitis BMany people who get hepatitis B will not have any symptoms. This is especially true of children. If people do have symptoms, they may start abruptly and include the following:
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (also known as jaundice)
- Feeling very tired
- Abdominal pain (or stomach pain)
- Not feeling very hungry
- Dark urine
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- A low-grade fever.
In a number of people, these symptoms may be confused with stomach flu symptoms, especially in the early stages of the illness.
(Click Hepatitis B Symptoms for more information on the possible impact of an infection with this virus.)
The Contagious PeriodA person is contagious during the hepatitis B incubation period. A person who is infected with the virus begins to be contagious early in the incubation period. About one-half of people remain contagious for up to two months after symptoms begin. The remainder of people who do not develop chronic hepatitis B will remain contagious for up to 15 weeks after symptoms begin. If a person develops the chronic form of the infection, they will remain contagious indefinitely.
Making a DiagnosisIn order to make a diagnosis, the doctor will ask the patient a number of questions and perform a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of hepatitis B.
If the doctor suspects hepatitis B, he or she will order certain tests to help diagnose the disease. Some of these tests will look for high levels of liver enzymes. Other tests will look for antibodies the body has made against the virus.
(Click Diagnosing Hepatitis B or Hepatitis B Testing for more information about making a diagnosis.)