COPPER

Also Known As: Blood Copper, Urine Copper, Cu, Hepatic Copper, Free Copper, Total Copper Serum Test

What Is A Copper Test?

Test? The copper test is used to measure the amount of copper in the blood serum, liver tissues, or urine. Copper is one of the essential nutrients that your body converts into enzymes. 

These enzymes, in turn, lead to the regulation of iron metabolism, energy production at the cellular level, formation of connective tissues, and the production of melanin in the body. It is also responsible for the regulation and function of your brain and nervous system.

In a normal adult, around 50 to 120 mg of copper is already present in the body, mainly in the liver and muscles. You may also acquire copper from your diet by consuming foods like organ meats, liver, whole grains, seafood, nuts, chocolates, and mushrooms. Your body gets rid of excess copper through fecal movements and urine. However, a serious medical condition can alter the normal copper levels. This abnormality can lead you to have too little copper ( copper deficiency) or too much copper ( copper toxicity) in your body. Since a regular diet has a lot of copper, you are unlikely to experience a copper deficiency in such cases. This is primarily true for premature babies devoid of nutritional supplements and children with bone fractures and abnormalities. 

Copper deficiency can also be due to Menkes syndrome, which interferes with copper absorption and leads to muscle weakness, connective tissues, low white blood cells, anemia, paleness, and neurological issues.

Excessive copper in the body can be toxic as well. You can get too much copper by drinking contaminated water, using dietary supplements, or by being around fungicides with copper sulfate in them. Wilson disease is another condition that stops your body from getting rid of excess copper. It inhibits your liver from storing copper properly and sending it out of the body through your urine or stool. Surplus copper in the liver can easily overflow and cause buildup in your brain, eyes, and kidney. It can also kill your liver cells, cause nerve damage and become a life-threatening situation if left untreated.

What Is The Test Used For?

The copper test is primarily suggested to help diagnose and treat Wilson's disease. It is a rare inherited disorder that can cause excessive storage of copper in the brain, liver, and other body organs, leading to copper toxicity. Your doctor will typically order a total or free blood copper test and some other associated examinations/analyses to understand your health concerns. If the test results are abnormal, the doctor may follow up with another 24-hour urine copper test to evaluate copper storage and copper excretion in the affected individual. 

If the health care provider is still not satisfied with the results, he may even perform genetic testing to rule out the mutation in the ATP7B genes after suspecting Wilson's disease. This test can also be used to diagnose other disorders that are linked with copper deficiency or too little copper in the bloodstream. Conditions like malnutrition, malabsorption, and Menkes syndrome can make it hard for your body to extract copper from the diet. 

In some cases, the copper test is also used for diagnosing liver diseases.

Why And When Do You Need A Copper Test?

Your doctor will ask you to undergo the copper test if he suspects you of showing symptoms linked with copper deficiency or copper toxicity. Some symptoms of copper toxicity are:

In severe cases, copper toxicity can cause:

  • Liver damage
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Brain disorders
  • Fatality or death

The signs and symptoms related to copper deficiency are:

  • Low level of a particular type of white blood cells called neutrophils or neutropenia
  • Anemia
  • Paleness
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hair with no or less pigment than usual

Newborns or children with copper deficiency due to malnutrition, malabsorption, or any other health condition me also have:

  • Aneurysms in their blood vessels
  • Stunted growth
  • Central nervous system problems
  • Weak muscles
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Hypothermia

Some common signs and symptoms of Wilson's disease are:

  • Low white blood cell count
  • Severe anemia
  • Kayser-Fleischer rings, i.e., brown rings around the eye cornea that are visible to a Health Care practitioner during an eye examination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Light-colored stool
  • Extreme abdominal pain
  • Jaundice or yellowing of eyes or skin, particularly when the liver is affected
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble speaking or swallowing food
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Behavioral changes
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Seizures

If you already have Wilson's disease, the doctor will suggest this test to ensure the treatment plan is working effectively.

What Kind Of Sample Is Required For The Test?

Your doctor, health care provider, or lab assistant will obtain a blood sample by inserting a needle into your vein. Alternatively, a 24-hour urine sample can also be collected, but it requires extreme care to avoid sample contamination with an external copper source. It is better to talk to your healthcare practitioner regarding necessary precautions before the test. If your blood or urine test result is higher than usual, your doctor might also ask for a repeated test with new findings to confirm the diagnosis.

Do You Need To Prepare For The Test?

You don't need any special preparations before going for the test. It is a simple blood test, so you don't have to stop eating food or taking medicine unless your doctor advises you.

Are There Any Risks To This Test?

You are at no risk with this copper blood test. Some people might experience bruising or pain at the spot whether the needle was injected, but the symptoms are usually very mild and can go away on their own instantly.

What Do The Test Results Mean?

The copper test results may differ based on gender, age, medical history, and testing method. The normal range for total copper in the blood is about 85 to 180 micrograms/dl. 

If you have a low amount of blood copper, it might mean you have:

  • A nutritional deficiency
  • Kidney disease
  • Body's inability to absorb copper

The blood levels of copper are also very low in Wilson's disease, even when copper can build up to Extreme toxic levels in your liver and other body organs. The only exception, in this case, is an individual with Wilson's disease with an acute liver failure. When this happens, the copper level in blood serum is always higher than usual. Your test results can be increased due to one of the following conditions:

  • Anemia
  • Copper toxicity from consuming too much copper through diet or dietary supplements and even water
  • Biliary cirrhosis
  • Hemochromatosis, health concern in which the body starts to absorb excessive iron
  • Leukemia
  • Any blood infection
  • Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism
  • Overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lymphoma

Related Tests:  Trace Mineral, Ceruloplasmin, Heavy Metals, 

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