8 Signs of Wilson Disease

Wilson disease is an uncommon hereditary condition that causes copper to store up in the liver, brain and other organs. The disease is usually diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 5 and 35, but it can also affect younger and older people too. It is a genetic disorder that can prove fatal if left untreated in advance of copper poisoning. Wilson disease affects about one in 30,000 people worldwide.

When ingested via food, copper plays a key role in the development of robust nerves, bones, collagen and the skin pigment melanin. Copper also aids in the production of red blood cells, the absorption of iron and the regulation of heart rate and blood pressure. Foods that are high in copper content include liver, dark chocolate, lentils and cashews. For most people, copper will be absorbed from these foods and any excess will be excreted through a substance produced in the liver called bile. In people with Wilson disease, copper isn’t removed properly and is instead stored at possibly life-threatening levels. When diagnosed promptly, many people with the disorder go on to live normal lives. Early detection is sometimes hindered because Wilson disease is frequently confused with alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver disease found in obese individuals or acute liver failure brought on by hepatitis viruses or drugs. It can also be confused with neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Although signs and symptoms vary depending on the affected part of the body, what follows are general symptoms associated with Wilson disease.

1. Fatigue

Feeling tired from time-to-time is commonplace for the average adult. However, chronic fatigue can be a sign of inflammation in the body. Fatigue on its own is often viewed as simply the byproduct of the fast-paced lifestyle most of us lead. When fatigue is accompanied by one or more symptoms listed here, it could be an indication of Wilson disease. Sufferers of this rare disease often report fatigue lasting for up to a year before undergoing more in depth testing that diagnoses Wilson disease. They also report that doctors initially prescribed an anti-depressant or iron tablets to combat the fatigue. Seeking a second opinion is advisable when prolonged fatigue is affecting your daily activities.