Donate to Wilson Disease Research, Patient Care and Education

Wilson disease is a rare genetic condition that prevents the body from expelling extra copper from the system. As a result of this disorder, too much copper builds up in the liver, eyes and brain. Wilson disease is caused by a mutation to the ATP7B gene, and most of the time parents do not show signs of the disease. Damage can occur to the organs, and without treatment, Wilson disease can be life-threatening. Because many of the symptoms of Wilson disease are the same as other diseases, Wilson disease can be difficult to diagnose. Northwestern Medicine is one of only six places in the world specializing in Wilson disease. By donating to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, you will help to ensure that Northwestern Medicine remains on the leading edge of research into, as well as treatment for, this rare disease.

Though copper build-up usually starts at birth, symptoms of Wilson disease usually present themselves between the ages of 5-35. Symptoms vary depending on the part of the body that is affected by the disease. People with Wilson disease may experience uncontrollable muscle movements or tremors, nausea, easy bruising, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, behavioral changes, swollen spleen and liver, anemia, arthritis, Kayser-Fleischer rings (yellowish-brown rings around the eyes due to copper deposits) and slurred speech.  Your contribution to Northwestern Memorial Foundation will help to ensure that patients who suffer from these symptoms are diagnosed early and effectively.

Treatment for Wilson disease is lifelong. In general, the earlier Wilson disease is treated, the less severe the symptoms will become. Medication may be prescribed to help the body’s organs get rid of excess copper and to also treat stiffness and muscle tremors. Zinc supplements are beneficial in preventing the body from absorbing copper from food. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary. Physician-scientists at Northwestern Medicine are dedicated to finding new ways to control the symptoms of Wilson disease, and, with the support of your donation to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, they will be able to accelerate groundbreaking research initiatives.

People with Wilson disease must eliminate certain foods from their diet in order to keep copper levels under control. Dietary restrictions for people with Wilson disease include:

  • Eliminating shellfish
  • Eliminating liver
  • Limiting chocolate
  • Limiting nuts
  • Limiting mushrooms
  • Avoiding multivitamins that contain copper

In addition to making dietary changes, people with Wilson disease must monitor the amount of copper in their drinking water, get vaccines for hepatitis A and B, and attend regular follow-up appointments with a physician to ensure that copper levels are under control.

Wilson Disease Research, Patient Care and Education Donation

At Northwestern Medicine, people with Wilson disease receive the very finest, most individualized treatment and support. Aided by your generous donation to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, Northwestern Medicine’s multidisciplinary team of experts will be able to provide ever greater numbers of patients with individualized, quality care, as well as supportive services. Your philanthropy also will allow physician-scientists at Northwestern Medicine to learn more about Wilson disease through leading-edge research and to provide patients with the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. Your generosity will make a great difference in many lives.

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