Wilson's disease is a rare inherited disease that is caused by having too much copper in the body. Copper is a substance found in many foods and in drinking water. Copper is important to our bodies in some ways; however, in Wilson's disease, accumulated copper harms the liver and other organs.
In a healthy person, the liver gets rid of copper by releasing it into bile. (Bile is a liquid produced by the liver that helps the body digest food and do other things.) The bile containing the copper passes through the digestive system and then leaves the body with other waste products when a person has a bowel movement.
The liver of a person who has Wilson's disease does not release copper into bile as it should. Instead, the copper builds up and damages the liver.
After a while, the buildup of copper in the liver is released into the bloodstream, which carries the copper throughout the body. This copper can cause damage in the kidneys, brain and eyes. If not treated, Wilson's disease can cause liver failure, brain damage and even death.
Wilson's disease affects approximately one out of every 30,000 people in the world.