Health Condition

Wilson’s Disease

About This Condition

Wilson’s disease is a genetic disorder that results in excessive accumulation of copper in many parts of the body, particularly the liver.

This condition is readily treatable, but if Wilson’s disease is left untreated, it can be fatal.


Wilson’s disease is initially silent and may first be noticed as fatigue, absent menstrual periods in premenopausal women, or repeated and unexplained spontaneous abortions. In more advanced stages, there may be headaches, tremors, uncoordinated limb movements, unsteady gait, drooling, difficulty swallowing, and joint pain. There also may also be strange thought patterns with unusual behaviors.

Other Therapies

Healthcare providers also recommend a low copper diet.


1. Hoogenraad TU, Van den Hammer CJA, Van Hattum J. Effective treatment of Wilson's disease with oral zinc sulphate: two case reports. Br Med J 1984;289:273-6.

2. Cossack ZT. The efficacy of oral zinc therapy as an alternative to penicillamine for Wilson's disease. N Engl J Med 1988;318:322-3 [letter/review].

3. Brewer GJ, Dick RD, Johnson VD, et al. Treatment of Wilson's disease with zinc: XV long-term follow-up studies. J Lab Clin Med 1998;132:264-78.

4. Brewer GJ, Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan V. The use of zinc-copper metabolic interactions in the treatment of Wilson's disease. J Am Coll Nutr 1989;8:452 [abstract 103].

5. Hoogenraad TU. Zinc treatment of Wilson's Disease. J Lab Clin Med 1998;132:240-1 [editorial].

6. Brewer GJ, Hill GM, Dick RD, et al. Treatment of Wilson's disease with zinc. III. Prevention of reaccumulation of hepatic copper. J Lab Clin Med 1987;109:526-31.

7. Brewer GJ, Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan V. Use of zinc-copper metabolic interactions in the treatment of Wilson's disease. J Am Coll Nutr 1990;9:487-91.

8. Brewer JG, Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan V, Lee D-Y, Appelman H. Treatment of Wilson's disease with zinc. VI. Initial treatment studies. J Lab Clin Med 1989;114:633-8.

9. Van den Hamer CJA, Hoogenraad TU. Copper deficiency in Wilson's disease. Lancet 1989;ii:442 [letter].

10. Van Caillie-Bertrand M, Degenhart HJ, Visser HKA, et al. Oral zinc sulphates for Wilson's disease. Arch Dis Child 1985;60:656-9.

11. Brewer GJ, Johnson VD, Dick RD, et al. Treatment of Wilson's disease with zinc. XVII: treatment during pregnancy. Hepatology 2000;31:364-70.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.