Wilson’s disease: Overview, Causes

Definition

Wilson’s disease is an inherited disorder in which there is too much copper in the body’s tissues. The excess copper damages the liver and nervous system.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Wilson’s disease is a rare inherited disorder. If both parents carry an abnormal gene for Wilson’s disease, there is a 25% chance in each pregnancy that the child will have the disorder.

Wilson’s disease causes the body to take in and keep too much copper. The copper deposits in the liver, brain, kidneys, and the eyes. The deposits of copper cause tissue damage, death of the tissues, and scarring, which causes the affected organs to stop working correctly.

This condition is most common in eastern Europeans, Sicilians, and southern Italians, but may occur in any group. Wilson’s disease typically appears in people under 40 years old. In children, the symptoms begin to show by age 4.

Pictures & Images

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system

The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.


Review Date : 8/7/2008
Reviewed By : Diana Chambers, MS, EdD, Certified Genetics Counselor (ABMG), Charter Member of the ABGC, University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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