Wilson's disease is an inherited inborn error of metabolism in which the body cannot process copper.
Wilson's disease is caused by a defect in an enzyme, or special protein. This enzyme normally helps the body get rid of extra copper. The amount of copper in a normal diet is more than the body needs. In people with Wilson's disease, the extra copper cannot be excreted from the body. The copper can damage the liver, brain, kidney, cornea, and other organs.
Wilson's disease may cause: anemia, or low red blood cell counts (late in the disease)ataxia, or lack of coordinationjaundice, or yellow eyes and skin due to liver involvement kidney problems, which end in kidney failure if the disease is untreatedloss of appetitepsychiatric problems, such as anxiety, depression, personality changes, and psychosisslurred speech or inability to form wordstremors, or involuntary rhythmic movementsweakness and a general discomfort
Wilson's disease is an inherited disorder. The children of parents who carry the gene for the disorder are at risk. The liver disease usually starts between ages 8 and 12, while the brain symptoms occur later in life.
Nothing can be done to prevent Wilson's disease. Genetic testing can determine whether someone has the gene for Wilson's disease. Genetic counseling is useful for people with a family history of the disease.
Diagnosis of Wilson's disease begins with a medical history and physical exam. Usually there are high levels of copper in the urine. Often the level of a special protein in the blood is lower than normal. A liver biopsy involves taking a small piece of liver with a special needle put through the skin. The piece can then be examined under a microscope for excess copper.
If untreated, Wilson's disease causes death. A delay in treatment can cause permanent brain damage and liver disease, among other problems. If treatment is started early and continued for life, there may be no long-term effects.
Wilson's disease is not contagious. It is an autosomal recessive disorder. That means the disease occurs in people who get the defective gene from both parents. Parents who have had a child with Wilson's disease are at risk for having other affected children.
Treatment is started right after the diagnosis is made, even if there are no symptoms. It continues for the rest of the person's life. If treatment is stopped, the symptoms return.
Treatment includes avoiding foods rich in copper. Examples of such foods are dried beans, peas, whole wheat, chocolate, and organ meats. Medicines are also needed.
Penicillamine (i.e., Cuprimine) is or trientine (i.e., Syprine) are usually used to treat Wilson's disease. They bind copper and allow it to be excreted in the urine.
Other agents such as pyridozine (vitamin B6), potassium sulfide, or zinc acetate may be used in some cases.
In rare cases, Wilson's disease may cause rapid, severe liver damage. The only option in such cases is a liver transplant.
All medicines have side effects, such as allergic reactions or stomach upset.
Someone with Wilson's disease will need lifelong treatment.
Copper levels in the body are measured to check the effectiveness of treatment. Routine blood and urine tests are also done. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
Wilson Disease Association
American Liver Foundation.