Could You Be Suffering With Wilson’s Disease?
A lesser known disease, Wilson’s disease is an inherited condition that is caused by too much copper accumulating in your liver, brain and other vital organs. The medical term for Wilson’s disease is hepatolenticular degeneration. Copper is a surprising nutrient in the body, required for the healthy development of bones, nerves, collagen and the skin pigment melanin. Copper is usually absorbed by the food we eat, and the excess is excreted through bile which is produced by the liver. However, in people with Wilson’s disease, this excess copper isn’t removed from the body properly and builds up to potentially life threatening levels. If it is diagnosed early enough, this can be a treatable condition and those with it can lead normal, healthy lives. There are a number of symptoms attributed to Wilson’s disease, many of which can also be mistaken for other conditions, so it’s important that you seek medical advice if you’re concerned. Some of the symptoms include difficulty swallowing, depression, difficulties with walking, clumsiness, easy bruising, nausea, skin rashes, joint pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) and fatigue. If you’re worried about any of your symptoms you should speak to your GP – this is particularly the case if a member of your family has been diagnosed with Wilson’s disease, as you may be more likely to have it.
The genetic mutation that leads to Wilson’s disease is usually passed on through generations, meaning that you are more likely to develop it if it is in your family’s history. Wilson’s disease is an inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, which means that you need to inherit two copies of the defective gene in order to develop the disease. Usually, if you have one abnormal gene, you won’t become ill but you will be a carrier of the disease, which you may then pass on to your children. The mutation that leads to Wilson’s disease results in problems with the protein that’s responsible for moving excess copper from your liver. The food in your diet acts as a source of copper for this process, which is then transported to the liver for everyday bodily processes.
There could be complications for your health caused by this condition, including scarring of the liver as they try to repair the damage caused by the excess copper. You may be at risk of liver failure as well, which may occur suddenly or develop over a number of years. If the failure progresses, you might require a transplant or a treatment to resolve the issue. Wilson’s disease has been known to increase the risk of liver cancer, due to the damage caused by the excess copper build-up. You could be at risk of persistent neurological problems if you don’t seek treatment for Wilson’s disease, though these improve with treatment.However, some people do continue to suffer with neurological problems despite having treatment for it. Kidney problems are also common with Wilson’s disease, as you could be at an increased risk of kidney stones and an abnormal number of amino acids excreted in the urine. If you’re displaying any of the symptoms previously listed, you should speak to your GP about your concerns. If they believe that you may have a problem with your liver, you might be referred to a liver specialist for further examination and treatment. It may be useful to make a note of your symptoms and when you experience them, in case it helps with your diagnosis.