Wilson's disease is an inherited disorder that causes too much copper to accumulate in your liver, brain and other vital organs. Another term for Wilson's disease is hepatolenticular degeneration.

Copper plays a key role in the development of healthy nerves, bones, collagen and the skin pigment melanin. Normally, copper is absorbed from your food, and any excess is excreted through bile — a substance produced in your liver.

But in people with Wilson's disease, copper isn't eliminated properly and instead accumulates, possibly to a life-threatening level. Left untreated, Wilson's disease is fatal. When diagnosed early, Wilson's disease is treatable, and many people with the disorder live normal lives.

Sep. 23, 2011