Viral Hepatitis Symptoms
In some cases, symptoms of viral hepatitis are not present, and some people are not even aware that anything is wrong until signs of cirrhosis appear. In addition, symptoms can vary in intensity. If symptoms do appear, however, they can include jaundice, stomach pain, or light-colored stools. A long-term (chronic) infection may involve symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, and lack of appetite.
When a person becomes infected with one of the viruses that cause viral hepatitis, the virus begins to multiply within the liver. Within two weeks (or as long as six months, depending on the virus), a person may develop viral hepatitis symptoms.
However, not everyone with viral hepatitis will have symptoms. Also, some of the people who do develop symptoms will have only mild symptoms. You can look and feel perfectly healthy, yet still be infected with the disease and infect others.
For a person with viral hepatitis, signs and symptoms (especially early symptoms) may include one or several of the following:
- Excessive tiredness
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- A low-grade fever
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Sore throat
- Mild abdominal pain (stomach pain)
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stool.
Sometimes, these early symptoms may be confused with those commonly seen with the stomach flu (see Stomach Flu Symptoms).
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes) usually occurs several days after early symptoms of viral hepatitis first appear. However, it may occur up to two weeks after symptoms begin. At this point, early symptoms tend to improve; but other new symptoms may appear, such as stomach pain on the right side.
The overall rate of death from a viral hepatitis infection will depend on the type of viral hepatitis (see Types of Viral Hepatitis). Loss of life is more common in older people with the disease. When someone dies from a viral hepatitis infection, it is most often because of a complication known as fulminant hepatitis, which is a serious condition that results in liver failure. Other people who are at an increased risk of fulminant hepatitis include those with severe liver disease (cirrhosis) and those who have had a liver transplant.