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What is Hepatitis D?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Hepatitis D, also known as hepatitis delta, is a viral infection of the liver that is contracted by intravenous drug users, people who have multiple sexual partners, people who engage in unprotected sex, and hemophiliacs. Employees in medical institutions and those who work in tattoo parlors are often at a high risk of contracting the virus as well. A person who contracts this virus must also be infected with the virus hepatitis B.

The person may already have chronic hepatitis B virus before contracting hepatitis D, or the viruses may be contracted simultaneously. People who suffer from both viruses experience severer symptoms than those who only have hepatitis B. Those with hepatitis D are at a higher risk of liver failure as well.

The virus is spread through the exchange of infected blood or bodily fluids. If people share toothbrushes, nail clippers or razors, they can also exchange the hepatitis virus. Even women who are pregnant can transmit the virus to their unborn babies.

Symptoms of hepatitis D include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, loss of appetite, dark urine, pain in the abdomen and joint pain. More serious symptoms involve severe jaundice, enlarged spleen, enlarged liver, altered brain function and aplastic anemia. If a patient is suspected of having the hepatitis D virus, the doctor will conduct a physical examination, liver function tests and blood tests. Liver biopsies may also be required to determine the severity of the condition.

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People can prevent the hepatitis delta virus if they avoid contracting hepatitis B. Using sterile needles, avoiding unprotected sex and receiving the hepatitis B vaccine are all ways to protect oneself from hepatitis delta. If a person contracts hepatitis D but does not receive treatment, he or she can develop cirrhosis of the liver that may require a liver transplant. It is possible to die from hepatitis D if patients do not receive medical treatment.

Those with chronic hepatitis delta can be given the antiviral drug alpha interferon if there is no presence of cirrhosis within the liver. On the other hand, patients who suffer from a severe form of this particular type of hepatitis require hospitalization. Vitamin K injections, antibiotics, fluids and blood transfusions are some of the treatments. Patients with this virus need adequate bed rest and a balanced diet designed for those with liver disease. They should also consume extra liquids but avoid alcohol, as this can worsen their condition.

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