Symptoms of Wilson's disease everyone should be aware of!

Do not think that jaundice could just indicate liver disease as it might mean more than that?? Read to know more.

Are you suffering from recurrent jaundice?

Have you seen a significant change in your child's handwriting in the past few months?

If yes, then do not ignore these signs of liver and brain problem as it might be a warning sign of Wilson's disease, says Dr Aabha Nagral, liver specialist, Jaslok and Apollo Hospital, Mumbai. A rare disorder, Wilson's disease is caused due to a defect in the body's ability to process copper, which leads to accumulation of copper as you are unable to get rid of it. The disease mainly occurs in young adults and children beyond three years of age and it either affects the brain, liver or both (in some cases). Read more on what it s like living with Wilson s Disease

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Symptoms of Wilson's disease

The symptoms are usually dependant on where more of the copper is deposited, which is the abnormality in Wilson's disease. The copper primarily accumulates in the liver, brain and also eyes. So depending on which organ is affected, the symptoms vary.

If copper deposits in the brain, then symptoms include --

  • Change in handwriting, which is seen as an early sign usually in the child or young adult.
  • Deterioration in academic performance of the child, who used to score well earlier
  • Slurred speech
  • Drooling of saliva
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Tremors
  • Contractures (a condition in which the muscles of the hands and legs harden leading to the rigidity of joints). In such a case, the legs and hands remain in one position and the person may not be able to straighten it.
  • Lastly, the patients become bed ridden.

If copper deposits in the liver, then the signs that might indicate Wilson's disease include -

  • Jaundice: Although there are many causes of jaundice, one should suspect Wilson's disease if jaundice in young patients lasts for long (say for a month or two). Also if a kid has recurrent jaundice, then it is a sign that the liver is in trouble due to copper accumulation. Here's more on symptoms of jaundice.
  • Abnormal liver function test
  • Cirrhosis in young adults or child
  • Acute liver failure with major dropping haemoglobin in young patients (5 years to 15 years, although according to books it is anyone between the age group of 3 - 55 years) indicates Wilson's disease.

Other symptoms like fatigue, lack of appetite, swelling of the feet, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, distention of the abdomen, black stools, blood vomit-are some of the general symptoms of liver disease, which are not specific of Wilson's disease.

If copper gets deposited in the eyes, it results in Kayser-Fleischer rings, which are rusty brown coloured rings surrounding the edge of the iris and in the rime of the cornea. This is one of the unique symptoms of Wilson's disease, which is usually detected during an eye examination. Read more on what your eyes say about your health.

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