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Hepatitis D: Treatment, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

What is the Hepatitis D?

Hepatitis D is the kind of infection which may have serious long term affects like developing liver cancer or liver scarring. Hepatitis D is associated with the inflammation of the liver. This infection does not have any vaccine till date, but early diagnosis can help prevent the disease from getting worse. Hepatitis D cannot develop on its own. A person who is already infected with Hepatitis B can only get infected. On the other hand an individual who comes in contact with infected urine, semen and other body fluids can get infected by Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis D can be of two types. Acute Hepatitis D which later develops into chronic Hepatitis D. This happens when the disease does not get cured in a period of 6 months. HDV is the main cause for developing Hepatitis D. As the infection is contagious, you should avoid contact with anyone who is diagnosed with Hepatitis D or B. In order to make an acute diagnosis, a blood test is performed to identify any anti-hepatitis D antibodies present in the blood. The detection of these antibodies will indicate the infection and your treatment should immediately start. You may also be asked to get a liver function test to check if the liver has already been affected. However, once the disease is detected, you might be given large doses of interferon medications. But till date, there is no definite vaccine for Hepatitis D as it is incurable.

How is the Hepatitis D treatment done?

Currently there is no cure for Hepatitis D as there are no vaccines available. However, treatment can be helpful in cases where the problem is detected in early stages. The doctors may try to diagnose the problem by carrying out certain blood tests to look for the presence of anti hepatitis D antibodies. If traces of this antibody are found in the blood, it indicates that the person is infected by the disease. Other liver function tests are also preformed to check for any further damage to the liver.

A person who has been diagnosed with Hepatitis D is given large doses of a medication called interferon for a period of 12 months. Antiviral medications which are often used for other kinds of Hepatitis do not seem to work for HDV. This medication helps in preventing the disease from spreading further and from any remission from the disease. But this treatment does not cure the disease completely as it is simply used as a precautionary method to stop transmission. Infected people have to be alert and look out for recurring symptoms as well.

For people who have any type of liver damage or cirrhosis, going for a liver transplant is often suggested. This surgical operation involves replacing the damaged liver with a healthy one taken from a donor. Approximately 78% of people who go through with this transplant live for five years or longer after the surgery.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Individuals who see symptoms like having jaundice, dark urine, fatigue, vomiting, loss of appetite, joint and abdominal pain should get themselves checked for Hepatitis D. The symptoms for Hepatitis B and D are very similar and can be difficult to determine. In few cases, the symptoms of Hepatitis D can make the condition for Hepatitis B even worse. People who come in contact with infected individual’s blood, semen, vaginal fluid and urine have a very high chance of contracting the disease themselves. People who contract Hepatitis B can get infected with Hepatitis D at the same time as well.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Individuals who do not show symptoms of Hepatitis D and are not infected by Hepatitis B have nothing to worry about. Individuals who are at a risk of being infected by Hepatitis D are ones who are already infected by Hepatitis B, who have sex with other men, often receive blood transfusion and take intravenous drugs.


Are there any side effects?

The major surgical operation of a liver transplant which a number of infected people have to go through have certain complications like bleeding, mental confusion and seizures, various infections and other bile duct complications. For patients taking interferon, side effects like drowsiness and low blood counts can also be noticed.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Right after the transplantation, the patient needs to be immediately shifted to the ICU where they should be kept in ventilation. This is to be done until the patient is completely conscious and can breathe properly without any help. Medical staff has to carefully look out for any fluid and electrolytes which might be abnormal. Since this disease is not curable, patients usually go for the liver transplant once and if their liver gets infected.

How long does it take to recover?

Hepatitis D is an incurable disease. The patient has to live with it for as long as they are alive. However, medications like interferon can be helpful in preventing the disease from spreading to other parts of the body. Patients who go through with the liver transplant tend to live for five years or longer after the surgery.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The liver transplant can be as cost upto Rs 18 lakhs excluding the Rs 2 lakh charge for the cost of investigation of the donor and recipient. The price for interferon medications may start from Rs 1000 as well.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The results of the treatment are not permanent as the disease is incurable in itself. Medications like interferon are only to be taken for a period of twelve months after the diagnosis. After a successful liver transplant, the patient’s life expectancy can increase by 5 years or more.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

One of the most important medications which is used by patients suffering from Hepatitis D is interferon. Sadly there are no alternatives to this medication yet.


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Written ByDr. Ashok Mishra MBBSGeneral Physician
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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