Basic Questions and Answers About Hepatitis B
October 23, 2015
Does Acute Hepatitis B Cause Symptoms?
Sometimes. Although a majority of adults develop symptoms from acute Hepatitis B virus infection, many young children do not. Adults and children over the age of 5 years are more likely to have symptoms. Seventy percent of adults will develop symptoms from the infection.
What Are the Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis B?
Symptoms of acute Hepatitis B, if they appear, can include:
How Soon After Exposure to Hepatitis B Will Symptoms Appear?
On average, symptoms appear 90 days (or 3 months) after exposure, but they can appear any time between 6 weeks and 6 months after exposure.
How Long Do Acute Hepatitis B Symptoms Last?
Symptoms usually last a few weeks, but some people can be ill for as long as 6 months.
Can a Person Spread Hepatitis B Without Having Symptoms?
Yes. Many people with Hepatitis B have no symptoms, but these people can still spread the virus.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis B?
Some people have ongoing symptoms similar to acute Hepatitis B, but most individuals with chronic Hepatitis B remain symptom free for as long as 20 or 30 years. About 15%-25% of people with chronic Hepatitis B develop serious liver conditions, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. Even as the liver becomes diseased, some people still do not have symptoms, although certain blood tests for liver function might begin to show some abnormalities.
How Will I Know if I Have Hepatitis B?
Talk to your health professional. Since many people with Hepatitis B do not have symptoms, doctors diagnose the disease by one or more blood tests. These tests look for the presence of antibodies or antigens and can help determine whether you:
How Serious Is Chronic Hepatitis B?
Chronic Hepatitis B is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. Approximately 2,000-4,000 people die every year from Hepatitis B-related liver disease.
What Are Antigens and Antibodies?
An antigen is a substance on the surface of a virus that causes a person's immune system to recognize and respond to it. When the body is exposed to an antigen, the body views it as foreign material and takes steps to neutralize the antigen by producing antibodies. An antibody is a substance found in the blood that the body produces in response to a virus. Antibodies protect the body from disease by attaching to the virus and destroying it.
What Are the Common Blood Tests Available to Diagnose Hepatitis B?
There are many different blood tests available to diagnose Hepatitis B. They can be ordered as an individual test or as a series of tests. Ask your health professional to explain what he or she hopes to learn from the tests and when you will get the results. Below are some of the common tests and their meanings. But remember: only your doctor can interpret your individual test results.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.