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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Hepatitis D
      Category : Health Centers > Digestive System

Hepatitis D

Alternate Names : Hepatitis Delta

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Hepatitis D is an infection and inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis D virus. It is one of several types of hepatitis. The hepatitis D virus needs the hepatitis B virus to be present to cause an infection. These 2 viruses may be acquired at the same time. Also, a person may already have a chronic hepatitis B infection, then catch hepatitis D.

What is going on in the body?

The liver is an important organ located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. It is responsible for:

  • filtering the blood
  • making bile, a substance that aids in digestion and helps rid the body of harmful substances
  • processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later use
  • making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
  • metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and amphetamines
  • storing vitamins A, B12, D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also stores iron and copper.
  • Infection of the liver by a virus can cause hepatitis, which is a term that means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can interfere with normal liver functions. Hepatitis that comes on quickly and is severe is called acute hepatitis. Hepatitis that develops slowly and lasts a long time is called chronic hepatitis.

    Hepatitis D can damage the liver:

  • through direct liver cell damage
  • through inflammation, which is caused by the immune system attacking the virus
  • Someone who does not have hepatitis B or who is immune to the B virus is protected from the hepatitis D virus.

    What are the causes and risks of the infection?

    Hepatitis D and hepatitis B are spread through exposure to infected blood and by sexual intercourse. People at risk include those who:

  • puncture themselves with contaminated needles and syringes, such as intravenous drug abusers or healthcare workers
  • are stuck with contaminated needles during tattooing, acupuncture, or body piercing
  • are sexually promiscuous, whether homosexual or heterosexual
  • have had an organ transplant or blood transfusion, though blood is now screened for hepatitis B to prevent this form of transmission
  • Each year, fewer cases are reported due to use of the hepatitis B vaccine. Those who receive the hepatitis B vaccine do not usually catch hepatitis D, even if exposed to it.


    Next section


    Hepatitis D: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Thomas Fisher, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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