Many people don’t have any symptoms when they are first infected with hepatitis B.
People who do have symptoms or signs may get:
- yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- dark urine
- extreme fatigue
- muscle and joint pain
- abdominal pain
Long term effects of hepatitis B
The course of hepatitis B infection depends mostly on the age at which a person is infected.
People infected as infants are likely to develop long term (chronic) infection and can get complications such as scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) or liver cancer. Infants have a 90% chance and children have a 30% chance of developing a chronic, lifelong infection.
People infected as teenagers or adults are likely to become unwell with symptoms (acute hepatitis), but have a smaller chance of developing a chronic infection. Others develop a silent infection, without any symptoms.
Most people infected as adults (approximately 95%) clear the virus from the body within six months. They develop immunity to future hepatitis B infections and do not develop long-term liver damage.
However, approximately 5% of adults can’t clear the virus and develop chronic hepatitis B. They are at risk of developing complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer in the longer term.
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Last reviewed: May 2018