People with hepatitis B can sometimes develop serious liver problems. These mostly affect people with an untreatedlong-term (chronic) infection.

Some of the main problems associated with hepatitis B are outlined below.


Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) affects aroundone in five people with chronic hepatitis B, often many years after they firstgot the infection.

Cirrhosis doesn't usually cause any noticeable symptoms until extensive damage to the liver has occurred, when it can cause:

  • tiredness and weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • feeling sick
  • very itchy skin
  • tenderness,pain, or swellingin the tummy
  • swelling of the ankles

There's currently no cure for cirrhosis, although it's possible to manage the symptoms and slow its progression.If the liver becomes severely damaged,a liver transplant may be needed.

Liver cancer

People with cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B have around a 1 in 20 chance of developing liver cancer every year.

Symptoms of liver cancer include:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling very full after eating, even if the meal was small
  • feelingand being sick
  • yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)

Treatment for liver cancer may involve surgery to remove the affected section of liver, a procedure to destroy the cancerous cells, or a liver transplant.

Fulminant hepatitis B

In less than 1 in 100 cases, short-term (acute) hepatitis B can lead to a serious problem calledfulminant hepatitis B.

This is where the immune system attacks the liver and causes extensive damage to it.

It can lead to symptoms such as:

  • confusion
  • collapsing
  • swelling of thetummycaused bya build-up of fluid
  • severe jaundice

Fulminant hepatitis Bcancause the liver to stop working properly and is often fatal if not treated quickly.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016