copper test

What is copper test ?

Copper is an essential mineral that the body incorporates into enzymes. These enzymes play a role in the regulation of iron metabolism, formation of connective tissue, energy production within cells, the production of melanin (the pigment that produces skin color), and the function of the nervous system. This test measures the amount of copper in the blood, urine, or liver (hepatic).

Copper is found in many foods including nuts, chocolate, mushrooms, shellfish, whole grains, dried fruits, and liver. Drinking water may acquire copper as it flows through copper pipes, and food may acquire it when people cook or serve food in copper dishes.

  • Normally, the body absorbs copper from food or liquids in the intestines, converts it to a non-toxic form by binding it to a protein, and transports it to the liver.
  • The liver stores some of the copper and binds most of the rest to another protein called apoceruloplasmin to produce the enzyme ceruloplasmin. About 95% of the copper in the blood is bound to ceruloplasmin, and most of the rest is bound to other proteins such as albumin.
  • Only a small amount is normally present in the blood in a free (unbound) state.
  • The liver eliminates excess copper into the bile and it is removed from the body in the stool. Some copper is also eliminated in the urine.

Both excess and deficiency of copper are rare. Wilson disease, a rare inherited disorder, can lead to excess storage of copper in the eyes, liver, brain, and other organs. Copper excess (toxicity) can also occur with absorbing large amounts over a short period of time (acute exposure) or various amounts over a long period (chronic exposure).

Copper deficiency may occasionally occur in conditions associated with severe malabsorption, such as cystic fibrosis and celiac disease, and in infants exclusively fed cow-milk formulas. It can also occur in malnourished children as well as people who megadose zinc-containing vitamins.

A rare X-linked genetic condition called Menkes kinky hair syndrome leads to copper deficiency in the brain and liver of affected infants. The disease, which affects primarily males, is associated with seizures, delayed development, abnormal artery development in the brain, and unusual gray brittle kinky hair.

Why Get Tested?

To measure the amount of copper in your blood, urine, or liver tissue; to help diagnose and monitor Wilson disease; sometimes to identify copper deficiency or excess

When To Get Tested?

When you have jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, behavioral changes, tremors, or other symptoms that a healthcare practitioner thinks may be due to Wilson disease or, rarely, to copper deficiency or excess; at intervals when you are being treated for a copper-related condition.

Sample Required?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein and/or a 24-hour urine sample is collected. Care must be taken, especially with a 24-hour urine sample, not to contaminate the sample with an external source of copper. Talk to your healthcare practitioner and/or the laboratory that will perform the test about necessary precautions. If a urine or blood copper test result is higher than expected, your healthcare practitioner may have the test repeated with a new sample to confirm the findings. Sometimes a healthcare practitioner performs a liver biopsy.

Test Preparation Needed?