What Is Wilson's Disease?

Wilson's disease(or hepatolenticular degeneration) is named after British neurologist Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson and he first described the condition in 1912. Wilson's disease is an inherited autosomal recessive genetic disorder that prevents your body from getting rid of extra copper. Mutations in the ATP7B gene causes this disease and it is present in about 1 out of every 100 people. People need copper because it helps develop healthy skin and bones, and maintain good health. However, in Wilson's disease patients, excess copper is dangerous because it can accumulate in your brain, liver, and other organs. Patients can also be more vulnerable to copper poisoning and in extreme cases, a liver transplant may be necessary. Too much copper in the body can also result in death. In order to be diagnosed with Wilson's disease, a child must inherit the gene from both parents, and symptoms usually begin to appear in children at around the age of 6. Many patients can live long, healthy lives if they start early treatment. The following five things can help you live a productive life:

Work With Your Doctor

It is important to maintain regular contact with your doctor because he or she can detect any potential problems that you may have. They can also inform you of any new treatments that may help improve your condition. If you believe that your child or yourself may have Wilson's disease, you should have your doctor give you a laboratory test. A laboratory test can measure the amount of copper in your blood and liver. Most Wilson's disease patients suffer from a low level of ceruloplasmin, which is a protein that binds with copper to remove it from the body. In extreme cases, patients can suffer from liver failure because they have a higher than normal level of copper in the bloodstream.  It takes 24 hours or less to find out the results of your test. You might also ask your doctor for a liver biopsy which is a procedure that removes liver tissue and determines if the copper level in your liver.

Many Wilson's disease patients suffer from Kayser Fleischer rings which is caused by a buildup of copper in the eyes and they appear in each eye and is a brown ring around the cornea. A special light is used to test for these rings and 50% of patients suffer from liver damage. If your family has a history of Wilson's disease, it is advised that you have a genetic test. Wilson's disease is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose because it is similar to other diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis. People with Wilson's disease ofen have symptoms such as jaundice(yellowing of the skin and eyes), skin rashes, fatigue, loss of appetite, depression, and difficulty swallowing and speaking. Some people are not diagnosed until adulthood and this is dangerous because it is a life-threatening disease. If it is not diagnosed, Wilson's disease can cause hepatitis and brain damage. In severe cases, people can suffer from an enlarged liver and kidney damage. But if you work regularly with your doctor, you can prevent or reduce the risk of these symptoms. Getting a yearly physical examination is an absolute necessity.

Practice Proper Diet And Nutrition

You can never overestimate the importance of eating healthy and following a proper diet. Everyone should eat a balanced diet and eat three meals a day to maintain good health. Wilson's disease patients should especially practice good diet and nutrition because they are more vulnerable to various illnesses. People with this disease should eat a healthy breakfast every morning, which should include a bowl of cereal. Milk and cereal is an outstanding source of vitamin B12 which is necessary for the production of healthy blood cells. Your liver stores vitamin B12 and protects your body against liver disease. This vitamin is necessary for making RNA and DNA and protects your liver against poisons and toxins. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and red meats are outstanding sources of vitamin B12. You should be able to get enough vitamin B12 in your daily diet, but if you feel that you are not getting enough, you should consider taking a supplement.

Caution: Before taking any vitamin or supplement, be sure that you talk with your doctor. Some supplements can cause unpleasant side effects and your doctor can help you determine the right dosage for you. Vitamin E is another beneficial vitamin for Wilson's patients because they often suffer from fatigue and it gives them more endurance and stamina. Some patients have difficulty walking properly or suffer from unexpainable tremors and vitamin E helps improve their coordination and concentration. It also strengthens their immune system and offers protection against various cancers. Studies have shown that vitamin E is even more effective when it is taken in combination with selenium. Selenium helps the body to have proper adrenal gland function. Foods such as collard greens, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, yams, nuts, liver, and eggs are excellent sources of vitamin E. Zinc is essential for for your body to function normally and it controls copper levels. When you have a Zinc deficiency, your body has trouble blocking the absorption of copper in the intestinal tract and preventing copper buildup. Zinc helps you maintain a strong immune system, help your enzymes function, and reduce your risk of colds. Pecan nuts, almonds, peas, oats, and turnips are good sources of zinc.


Depression is one of the symptoms of Wilson's disease and regular exercise can go a long way in alleviating depression. Exercise can reduce your risk of diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. It strengthens your cardiovascular system and helps reduce stress. Studies indicate that exercise can can reduce arthritis pain and can make you feel better physically and mentally. It does not have to be boring and you should choose an activity that you enjoy. Walking, dancing, jogging, swimming, are activites that you can do to get some good exercise. Regular exercise can help you live a higher quality of life and you should think about starting an exercise regimen. Caution: Before you start an exercise program, you should talk with your doctor and find out what works best for you.

Get Regular Immunizations

It is especially important for Wilson's disease patients to get regular immunizations because they are at a greater risk of getting infections and other illnesses. Immunizations offers protection against viruses and bacterias such as whooping cough, measles, influenza, mumps, and other ailments. People with Wilson's disease have fragile livers and it is essential that they get immunized with the hepatitis vaccine. Your child should receive his or her first hepatitis shot at 2 months of age and receive 4-5 shots before they begin school. Hepatitis can kill you or your child, so it is absolutely necessary that you get this vaccine. Talk with your doctor about any other immunizations that you or your child may need.

Join A Wilson's Disease Support Group

If you have not done so, you consider joining a Wilson's disease support group. Other Wilson's patients can offer information and insight into how you can deal with the daily challenges of coping with the disease. They can offer suggestions or maybe tell you about a new treatment that may help you. We all need someone to talk to sometimes and being a part of a group can relieve stress. A Wilson's support group will remind you that you are not alone and that other people understand what you are going through. Also lean on the support of family and friends and do not be afraid or embarrased to tell them what you need. They cannot help you if they do not know what you need. Ask your doctor about Wilson's disease support groups, search the internet, or ask your local librarian.

You can live a long, productive life with Wilson's disease if you start treatment early in life. Wilson's is a lifetime disease and you must treat it as such. Early diagnosis is critical and can help you live a higher quality of life. Maintaining regular contact with your doctor is

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