Total Copper (Blood)
Does this test have other names?
Total copper serum test
What is this test?
This test measures the total amount of copper in your blood. Normally most of the
copper in your blood is carried by a protein called ceruloplasmin.
Adults have 50 to 120 milligrams (mg) of copper in their body, mostly in muscle and
the liver. Copper helps make melanin, bone, and connective tissue. It also helps with
many other processes in your body. You normally get copper through your diet, in foods
such as liver and other organ meats, seafood, beans, and whole grains. You get rid
of copper in your bowel movements and urine.
Many health problems can disrupt normal copper levels. This can cause you to have
too little copper (copper deficiency) or too much copper (copper toxicity).
Because a normal diet has plenty of copper, copper deficiency is unlikely except in
certain cases. It can occur in malnourished children. This is especially true for
premature babies who don't get nutritional supplements. Children with this condition
tend to have bone abnormalities and fractures. Copper deficiency can also result from
a rare genetic disorder called Menkes disease. This syndrome interferes with copper
absorption. Copper deficiency can lead to problems with connective tissue, muscle
weakness, anemia, low white blood cell count, neurological problems, and paleness.
Too much copper can be toxic. You can get too much copper from dietary supplements
or from drinking contaminated water. You can also get too much copper from being around fungicides that
have copper sulfate. You can also have too much copper if you have a condition that
stops the body from getting rid of copper. For example, Wilson disease keeps the liver
from storing copper safely and from sending copper out of the body in your stool.
Extra copper in the liver overflows and builds up in the kidneys, brain, and eyes.
This extra copper can kill liver cells and cause nerve damage. Wilson disease is fatal
if untreated. Extra copper can also interfere with how your body absorbs zinc and
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms of either copper deficiency or copper
Signs and symptoms of copper deficiency can include:
Children with copper deficiency through malnutrition or another condition may have
aneurysms in the blood vessels, central nervous system problems, stunted growth, poor
muscle tone and muscle weakness, and hypothermia.
Symptoms of copper toxicity include:
In more severe forms, copper toxicity can lead to:
Signs and symptoms of Wilson disease include:
Low white blood cell count
Belly (abdominal) pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, poor appetite, yellowing
of eyes or skin (jaundice) when the liver is affected
Kayser-Fleischer rings. These are brown rings around the cornea that are visible to
a healthcare provider during an eye exam.
If you have Wilson disease, you may need this test to make sure your treatment is
What other tests might I have along with this test?
You might also be checked for possible copper deficiency, copper toxicity, or Wilson
disease with these tests:
The level of copper in your blood can be related to many different conditions. These
include liver problems or inflammation.
What do my test results mean?
Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used
for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem.
Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.
The normal range for total copper in the blood is 85 to 180 micrograms per deciliter
A low amount of copper could mean that you have:
In Wilson disease, blood levels of copper are low even while copper builds up to toxic
levels in the liver and other organs. An exception is the person with Wilson disease
who has acute liver failure. In this case, the level of copper in the blood may be
higher than normal.
Any of the following conditions could cause your test result to be high:
Copper toxicity from taking in too much copper, perhaps through water or dietary supplements
Biliary cirrhosis, a liver disease
Hemochromatosis, a condition in which your body absorbs too much iron
Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
How is this test done?
The test is done with a blood sample. A needle is used to draw blood from a vein in
your arm or hand.
Does this test pose any risks?
Having a blood test with a needle carries some risks. These include bleeding, infection,
bruising, and feeling lightheaded. When the needle pricks your arm or hand, you may
feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward, the site may be sore.
What might affect my test results?
Pregnancy, birth control pills, infection, inflammation, and stress can all increase
the copper levels in your blood. The medicines corticosteroids and corticotropin can
reduce your copper levels.
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines,
herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't
need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use.