Hepatitis D is a viral infection caused by the hepatitis D virus (previously called the Delta agent). It causes symptoms only in people who also have hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is found only in people who carry the hepatitis B virus. HDV may make liver disease worse in people who have either recent (acute) or long-term (chronic) hepatitis B. It can even cause symptoms in people who carry hepatitis B virus but who never had symptoms.
Hepatitis D infects about 15 million people worldwide. It occurs in a small number of people who carry hepatitis B.
Risk factors include:
Hepatitis D may make the symptoms of hepatitis B worse.
Symptoms may include:
You may need the following tests:
Many of the medicines used to treat hepatitis B are not helpful for treating hepatitis D.
You may receive a medicine called alpha interferon for up to 12 months if you have a long-term HDV infection. A liver transplant for end-stage chronic hepatitis B may be effective.
People with an acute HDV infection most often get better over 2 to 3 weeks. Liver enzyme levels return to normal within 16 weeks.
About 1 in 10 of those who are infected may develop long-term (chronic) liver inflammation (hepatitis).
Complications may include:
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of hepatitis B.
Steps to prevent the condition include:
Adults who are at high risk for hepatitis B infection and all children should get this vaccine. If you do not get Hepatitis B, you cannot get Hepatitis D.
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.