Wilson's disease is a genetic condition in which the body stores too much copper. The human body needs small amounts of copper to stay healthy. Since too much copper is toxic, however, the body usually relies on the liver to separate excess copper out of the bloodstream and send it into the urine so it can be excreted from the body. A person with Wilson's disease is unable to get rid of extra copper. The excess copper builds up in the person's liver, nervous system, or both, where it can cause serious medical conditions.
Signs of Wilson's Disease
Symptoms of Wilson's disease may include:
- Swelling of the liver or spleen
- Swelling or fluid buildup in the legs and feet
- Bruising easily
- Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
- Muscle stiffness, weakness, or tremors
- Difficulty controlling muscle movements, including those needed for speaking or swallowing
- Behavioral changes
- Kayser-Fleischer rings, which are rust-colored copper deposits around the iris of the eyes
Not every patient who has Wilson's disease will experience all of the symptoms listed above, and some may have symptoms that aren't mentioned here. If Wilson's disease is not diagnosed and treated properly, patients can suffer serious medical conditions, including:
- Anemia or hemophilia, in which the blood does not clot after a cut or scrape
- Low white blood cell count, which increases the risk of catching infections and other illnesses
Diagnosing Wilson's Disease
A delayed diagnosis or a failure to diagnose Wilson's disease that leads to a delay in treatment can have serious consequences.
Wilson's disease is diagnosed with a combination of a physical exam and lab tests. During a physical exam, a physician may look for Kayser-Fleischer rings or other physical signs of Wilson's disease. Tests of the patient's blood and urine may reveal increased levels of copper in the body or other symptoms of increased copper, such as increased excretion of certain amino acids and other substances in the patient's urine. A liver biopsy can help determine whether the liver is storing too much copper and if any damage has occurred, while scans like an MRI can help physicians check for neurological damage due to excess copper storage in the brain or spinal cord.
A delayed diagnosis or a failure to diagnose Wilson's disease that leads to a delay in treatment can have serious consequences. Excess copper in the nervous system can cause permanent brain and spinal cord damage, while excess copper buildup in the liver can lead to liver failure, which may require a liver transplant. Wilson's disease requires life-long care to minimize the damage it can cause, so early and accurate diagnosis is crucial if a patient is to have the best possible chances at a full and healthy life.
Holding Negligent Parties Liable in Nebraska
If you or someone you love has Wilson's disease in Nebraska and was incorrectly diagnosed or the diagnosis was delayed, please don't hesitate to contact the experienced Omaha medical malpractice attorneys at Cullan & Cullan LLC by calling (402) 882-7080. We understand the vital importance of prompt and proper diagnosis, and we will help you fight to hold any negligent parties accountable for their actions if their failure to diagnose Wilson's disease correctly leads to severe medical, emotional, and financial consequences for you or your loved one.