Hepatitis B guide

Hepatitis B signs and symptoms


Hepatitis B is most often asymptomatic (no symptoms). Although the virus can be sexually transmitted, it damages the liver...so you won't see any signs on your genitals like a rash, and you won't necessarily feel any symptoms since the virus is acting internally. Within six months of exposure, however, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever and fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine or gray-colored bowel movements
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)

Symptoms of chronic (long-term) hepatitis B infection may not show up for decades, but can include all of the same symptoms listed above, along with abdominal swelling, testicular changes and other abnormalities. Even when no symptoms are present, hepatitis B is highly contagious and can be transmitted to others...that's why getting tested is so important.

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."