Wilson’s Disease, also known as hepatolenticular degeneration, is an genetic disorder inherited from two carrier parents that causes the liver’s inability to get rid of excess copper in the body.
Everyday you eat food containing copper, and the copper you ingest is absorbed in the digestive system to be used for cellular tasks. Normally, the liver receives more copper than it needs, so it forms the excess copper into a solution and gets rid of it. However, in the case of a person affected with Wilson’s Disease, the body is unable to get rid of the excess copper, so the copper builds up in the liver and poisons it, resulting in serious damage to the liver. Overtime, if unnoticed, the copper will leave the liver and accumulate in other areas of the body, such as the brain and the eyes. If not identified and treated quickly, Wilson’s Disease can be fatal.
The symptoms of Wilson’s Disease are often falsely recognized as symptoms of other diseases, so an accurate diagnosis is usually difficult. Symptoms include clumsiness, difficulty speaking, difficulty walking, joint pain, nausea, drooling, and many others.
The first step of treatment is medication to reduce the amount of copper present in the body. Once copper concentration is returned to normal, medication is prescribed to maintain the normal level of copper in the body to prevent another buildup. There is no cure for Wilson’s Disease; medication is required for the rest of your life. In cases like Parker’s, therapy is needed to regain the ability to talk, walk, and function normally. If identified early, those suffering from Wilson’s Disease can be treated and continue to live normal lives.
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