Symptoms of hepatitis B

The symptoms of hepatitis B depend on whether a person has acute or chronic
hepatitis B infection.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis B

Symptoms resulting from acute hepatitis B infection among adults are common, with jaundice occurring approximately 12 weeks after initial infection. 
The symptoms of acute hepatitis B include:

  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • tiredness
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle and joint pain
  • jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin, dark urine and pale-coloured faeces/poo).

Many people with acute hepatitis B have no symptoms and never realise they had the infection. A very small percentage of people with acute hepatitis B become very sick in a short period of time. This happens if there is massive damage to the liver and it stops working. This is called ‘fulminant hepatitis’. (Lin, K.W. & Kirchner, T.J. 2004)

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis B

Most people with chronic hepatitis B do not have any symptoms of infection which means they may feel healthy and not be aware they are infected. However, other people may experience symptoms which are similar to those experienced with other forms of viral hepatitis. These can include:

  • tiredness, depression and irritability
  • pain in the liver (upper, right side of abdomen)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • joint aches and pains.

People with chronic hepatitis B have a significantly increased risk of developing liver cancer.



Lin, K.W. & Kirchner, T.J. (2004). 'Hepatitis B'. American Family Physician. 69 (1), pp.75–82.

Page Updated: 05 Feb 2013