One of several types of viral hepatitis, hepatitis D is a disease of the liver caused by an infection with the hepatitis virus. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, and joint pain. In order for a person to develop this condition, he or she must already have an active hepatitis B infection. The best way to prevent it is to get the hepatitis B vaccine and avoid high-risk situations (such as unsafe sex).
What Is Hepatitis D?Hepatitis D is a disease of the liver caused by a virus (specifically, the hepatitis D virus). Most people who get this type of hepatitis can get rid of the virus on their own, but others can develop chronic (or lifelong) hepatitis D.
Besides hepatitis D, there are several other types of viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, C, E, and G.
What Causes It?The cause of this condition is an infection with the hepatitis D virus. This virus is a RNA virus that belongs to the genus Deltavirus. Once inside the body, the virus enters liver cells, where it begins to make millions of copies of itself.
However, there is one important difference between hepatitis D and other types of viral hepatitis. A person who is infected with the hepatitis D virus must also have a hepatitis B infection in order for the hepatitis D virus to multiply. This is not the case with other types of viral hepatitis. A person must either have chronic hepatitis B or have been infected with the hepatitis B virus at the same time as they became infected with the hepatitis D virus. Otherwise, the hepatitis D virus cannot multiply.
(Click Causes of Hepatitis D for more information.)
Acute Versus Chronic Hepatitis DThere are two types of hepatitis D -- acute (recently acquired) and chronic (lifelong). For most people with the acute form, symptoms gradually get better within a couple of months. These people will have no long-lasting liver damage and will recover completely.
For some people, the body is not able to completely get rid of the virus. These people end up having a long-term liver infection. This is called chronic hepatitis D. People with the chronic variety can infect others and are at an increased risk of serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.