Many individuals with acute hepatitis B or C infection remain asymptomatic and are unaware they are infected. However, it is still possible for viral transmission to occur even in the absence of symptoms. The symptoms of acute infection can include:
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
Hepatitis B and C can develop into a chronic infection in some individuals. Chronic hepatitis B infection is common in infants and young children, but less than 5% of infected adults develop chronic infections, assuming there are no other health complications. In contrast, more than 50% of individuals infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection. Chronic infections can lead to mild to severe liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Cirrhosis is when a build up of scar tissue inhibits the normal functioning of the liver. Initially there are no obvious symptoms, but as the disease progresses, signs can include fatigue, weakness, lower leg swelling, yellow skin, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, and the development of spider-like blood vessels on the skin. Liver cancer shares many of the same symptoms, as well as feeling nauseous, symptoms of indigestion, and pain at the top right of the abdomen or in the right shoulder (referred pain).