Hepatitis D is a liver disease caused by hepatitis D virus, which is a defective virus that needs hepatitis B virus to exist. It is not a common liver disease, but is probably the most serious. This infection can be prevented by hepatitis B vaccine.
Hepatitis D is also known as delta virus, and is only found in people who are infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis D can be acute or chronic. The onset of acute hepatitis D is suddenly and usually causes more severe symptoms. However, it may go away on its own. In case the infection lasts for six months or longer, it is known as chronic hepatitis D.
Chronic infection develops gradually over time. The hepatitis D virus might be present in the body for many months before the patient starts experiencing any symptoms. As it progresses, the chances of complications also become high. Many patients of hepatitis D eventually develop cirrhosis or severe scarring of the liver.
There is no treatment available for Hepatitis D, but if the condition gets diagnosed in time, liver damage can be prevented.
In Myanmar, there is a high incidence of Hepatitis B, but incidence of Hepatitis D is low.
Hepatitis D does not always cause symptoms. If the patient does experience symptoms, they may include:
- yellowing of the skin and eyes, the condition known as jaundice
- abdominal pain
- joint pain
- loss of appetite
- dark urine
The symptoms of hepatitis D are similar to that of hepatitis B. So, it is usually difficult to determine whether hepatitis B or D is causing the symptoms. However, hepatitis D can make symptoms of hepatitis B worse.
When to see a doctor
You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. Although there are several other less serious conditions that can cause similar symptoms, but a medical evaluation is necessary to start the right course of treatment.
Treatment of Hepatitis D in Myanmar
There are no treatments available for acute or chronic hepatitis D. Unlike the case of other types of hepatitis, antiviral medications are not effective in the treatment of Hepatitis D.
The patient may be given large doses of interferon for up to a year. Interferon is a kind of protein that may stop the spread of the virus and lead to remission. However, even after the completion of treatment, patients of hepatitis D can still test positive for the virus. So, it is still important to take appropriate precautionary measures to prevent transmission.
If the patient has cirrhosis or some other type of liver damage, they may require liver transplant. It is a major surgical procedure that involves removal of the damaged liver, and replacing it with a healthy liver from a donor.
Hepatitis D is not curable. Early diagnosis can help prevent liver damage. So, it is important to call the doctor right away if you experience any symptoms that might indicate hepatitis. When the condition is left untreated, complications may occur. Some commonly reported complications include:
- liver disease
- liver cancer
Chronic hepatitis D is more likely to lead to complications compared to acute hepatitis D.
The best way to prevent hepatitis D is to avoid hepatitis B infection. By taking some precautionary measure, you can reduce the risk of developing hepatitis B:
- There is a vaccine available for hepatitis B that every child should receive. Even the adults who are at risk of hepatitis infections such as those who abuse intravenous drugs should receive vaccination. It is given as a series of three shots over a period of 6 months.
- Avoiding unprotected sex is also important. So, you should always practice safe sex by using condom.
- Use of illegal drugs can also increase the chances of infection. So, use of these drugs such as cocaine or heroin should be stopped. Never share needles with anyone.
- Be cautious about piercings and tattoos.