Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is a rare but serious infection that can only occur alongside a hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes inflammation and damage to the liver. It is spread through bodily fluids and can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-lasting).
Chronic HBV can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, or liver cancer. Taking care of your overall health and liver health is important to living well with the disease. HDV is a secondary infection to HBV that can have the same effects on the liver.
Whether you have been living with hepatitis B and have now received an HDV diagnosis or you are newly diagnosed with hepatitis, it is normal to have questions.
In this article, you will learn emotional, physical, social, and practical ways to cope and live well with hepatitis D.
It is normal to feel anxious, scared, or depressed when living with HDV. Depression and anxiety tend to be more common in people with hepatitis, which may result from living with the stresses of a chronic illness.
If you have already learned to live with HBV, discovering that you have a secondary infection like HDV can feel defeating. It is important to note that while there is no cure for HDV, acute infections usually resolve within two to 10 weeks. Treatment is also available.
While HDV does not cause mental illness, certain medications used to treat hepatitis, such as interferon-a, have been known to cause mental illness or worsen existing mental illnesses.
Talking with your healthcare provider can provide direction, answers, and ease fears. They can also refer you to a mental health specialist if you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need assistance in addressing these problems.
The most important part of living well with hepatitis is protecting your liver. Lifestyle changes can aid in this protection and slow disease progression.
Eating a healthy whole grain, plant-based diet can help support and protect your liver. Adding plenty of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower has also been shown to protect the liver.
Other changes include:
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Limit saturated fats, such as those found in fried foods.
- Limit foods and drinks with added sugars, such as soda, candy, and packaged snacks.
- Check nuts and grains for mold as they could carry aflatoxin, which can increase the risk of liver cancer.
- Avoid raw or undercooked shellfish, such as mussels or scallops, as they can carry a type of bacteria that is toxic to the liver.
Regular exercise can reduce stress and improve overall health. Exercise can be as simple as a daily walk. Fitness classes, lifting weights, yoga, and Pilates are also good options.
Before starting an exercise program, talk to your healthcare provider as there is some evidence of risk in doing physical activities for those who have severe cirrhosis of the liver.
The environment plays a part in liver health. Many things you eat, breathe, and place on your skin are eventually filtered through the liver. Paying attention to the elements the body is exposed to can help with HDV.
- Avoid fumes from glues, paint thinners, cleaning products, and other toxic chemicals.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you take, as some can affect the liver.
- Talk to a pharmacist about over-the-counter drugs, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), as some can also affect the liver.
Managing a chronic illness can feel overwhelming and exhausting. Finding support from family and friends can help you feel less alone.
Online communities, such as the Hepatitis B Foundation, offer support groups and other resources to help you connect with healthcare providers specializing in HDV and other people diagnosed with the same disease.
Connecting with those who understand what you are going through can be beneficial. While HDV is a rare disease and information can be limited, asking questions and talking to your healthcare provider can provide options.
Maintaining regular visits with your healthcare provider to monitor your overall and liver health is important to living well with HDV.
Protecting your loved ones is also an important part of living with HDV. Since HDV occurs only with HBV, it is important to stop the spread of HBV.
HBV is a virus mainly spread through blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. It is not spread through casual contact. To ensure that household members and sexual partners are protected, they should be tested and vaccinated if not infected to prevent the spread of the virus.
HDV is spread in many of the same ways as HBV. It is more often transmitted by puncture through the skin rather than contact through semen or saliva.
Other steps you can take to prevent the transmission of HBV include:
- Avoid sharing personal items like razors, toothbrushes, and needles.
- Avoid unprotected (also referred to as condomless) sex.
- Clean blood spills and keep cuts and wounds covered.
Hepatitis D is a rare infection that occurs alongside Hepatitis B, a virus that affects the liver. A healthy diet, exercise routine, and avoiding environmental contaminants can all help protect your liver.
Talking to a healthcare provider, finding social support, and taking steps to avoid spreading the virus to others are other steps you can take to live well with the disease.
A Word From Verywell
Since HDV is a rare secondary virus to HBV, you may have more questions than you had previously if you were already diagnosed with HBV. This is normal. talking to your healthcare provider can provide answers and ease fears.
While living with hepatitis D can feel overwhelming, there are ways to cope. Support groups and other healthcare providers, such as a therapist, can help you deal with the emotional aspects of living with an illness.