Hepatitis B

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B can be either acute, lasting no longer than six months, or chronic, lasting six months or more. Chronic HBV can potentially lead to liver damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Symptoms of acute and chronic Hepatitis B are similar to those of acute hepatitis due to any viral cause, and are often mistaken for a bad cold or the flu. Those symptoms may include a rash, muscle and joint aches, fever, dark urine, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort.

Approximately 20 percent of people with acute Hepatitis B may suffer from severe joint stiffness and pain. These individuals may seek treatment from a rheumatologist or a massage therapist to alleviate these symptoms.

Most adults have a strong enough immune system to battle acute viral Hepatitis B and completely eliminate it from the body. When this occurs, symptoms will resolve and protective antibodies will be formed against the Hepatitis B virus, creating immunity to this virus. This immunity, however, will not protect a person against other hepatitis viruses such as Hepatitis A virus or Hepatitis C virus.

The immune system is the most important factor in determining whether a person can rid his/her body of HBV rather than develop a persistent infection. If an adult is infected, the probability of developing chronic hepatitis is very low, approximately 1 to 5 percent.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Hepatitis B Information for the Public" http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/B/index.htm Retrieved February 10, 2011

Dolan, Mathew, The Hepatitis Handbook. North Atlantic Books, 1999.

Palmer, MD, Melissa. Dr. Melissa Palmer’s Guide to Hepatitis & Liver Disease. New York: Avery Trade, 2004.

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