Copper is typically taken into your body by dietary means. Under normal circumstances, any copper that builds up beyond the normal bodily levels is excreted by your liver in the form of bile. This is subsequently released into your gastrointestinal tract. If you have Wilson’s disease, a hereditary disorder, the process by which the liver removes excess copper from your blood and excrete it is disrupted. Thus, the copper starts to accumulate in your liver and, ultimately, when your liver can hold no more, it is carried in the blood to other organs like your brain and your eyes where it is stored. In all of these organs, the accumulation of copper will ultimately result in cellular damage and organ failure. If left untreated, Wilson’s disease will have great potential to kill you.
1. The neurological and psychiatric symptoms of Wilson’s Disease
When toxic levels of copper accumulate in your brain, they impact its function. Among the consequences are neurological and psychiatric symptoms. You may develop Parkinson’s syndrome, hand tremors, slurred speech, movement disorders, slurring, migraine headaches, seizures, clumsiness or lack of coordination, and dystonia. The sub-cortex and frontal lobe of your brain may be affected resulting in memory loss, slow thinking, lack of motivation, increased impulsiveness, promiscuity, and executive dysfunction (decreases in response inhibition, self-monitoring, the capacity to form goals, the ability to plan for the future, the ability to coordinate movement, and complex cognition). Other symptoms may include psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and changes in your normal behavior.
2. Diagnosis of Wilson’s disease based on the examination of spleen, liver, and eyes
In a few patients, the psychiatric symptoms occur in the absence of neurological symptoms. When this happens, it is difficult to diagnose Wilson’s Disease. This is because the psychiatric symptoms alone do not stand out. In fact, they could easily be attributed to other psychiatric disorders. For this reason, patients who manifest psychiatric symptoms alone could end up being misdiagnosed and ultimately fail to get the necessary treatment for the excessive copper build-up in their bodies. Fortunately, it is only in rare cases that the psychiatric issues attributable to Wilson’s disease occur in isolation. In most cases, they occur in tandem with neurological issues. If you have Wilson’s disease, depending on the stage to which the disease has progressed, you may have brown-colored Kayser-Fleischer rings around your irises. These are actually copper deposits in your eyes, and they are specific to Wilson’s disease. You may also prove to have liver or spleen disorders upon examination. Together, these symptoms confirm a Wilson’s disease diagnosis.
Guest contributor Christa Blair loves to write about health related articles most especially about Wilson’s Disease and other disease symptoms.