Copper Toxicity: Symptoms and Treatment

Copper is an element that is found mainly in the kidneys, brain, and liver. However, the muscles and bones contain about 50% of copper in the body basically due to their size. The body needs this element anywhere between 1 and 100 mg every day in the adult population. The copper is transported from the liver to the peripheral tissues through the ceruloplasmin to which element binds. More than half of the copper in the body is eliminated through the bile and the remaining is excreted through gastrointestinal secretions [1, 2, 3].

Sometimes, if a person is exposed to high levels of copper for a prolonged period of time it can result in Copper Toxicity. This normally occurs as a result of eating or drinking contaminated food or water. A person with Copper Toxicity will experience frequent bouts of diarrhea, headaches, and in extreme instances renal failure. Copper toxicity can also be caused as a result of certain genetic disorders like Wilson disease [1, 2, 3].

The primary function of copper in the body is to metabolize iron and produce enzymes that provide necessary energy for the body to function normally. Copper also helps in building connective tissues and developing new blood vessels. Copper also boosts the immune system so that the body is able to fight away infections effectively [1, 2, 3].

The article below highlights some of the presenting features of copper toxicity and the treatment options for it.

What Are The Symptoms Of Copper Toxicity?

As stated, majority of the copper is present in the bones and muscles but it is also present in high concentrations in the liver, kidney, and brain. A person when exposed to excessive copper for prolonged period of time develops Copper Toxicity. Such people will experience periodic stomach pains especially after eating food along with nausea and vomiting [3].

They may also have diarrhea with stools that are green or blue in color. Some people also have blood in the stools. Additionally, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are some of the common symptoms seen in people with Copper Toxicity along with fever, chills, and muscle aches and pains. Copper toxicity at times also causes the person to feel very thirsty frequently along with noticeable changes in taste with decreased appetite [3].

There are also certain neurological and psychological symptoms seen in people with Copper Toxicity. These symptoms include frequent and sudden mood changes and irritability. They may also feel depressed and anxious. They have problems with focusing and concentrating on tasks at hand [3].

In extreme instances, Copper Toxicity can cause kidney failure and cardiovascular problems. Some people also develop liver dysfunction as a result of severe Copper Toxicity and in rare cases damage to the brain and even loss of life is observed with Copper Toxicity [3].

What Are The Treatment Options For Copper Toxicity?

The frontline treatment for Copper Toxicity includes administration of zinc. This prevents any build-up of copper in the gastrointestinal tract. Chelation therapy is also quite beneficial in people with Copper Toxicity. This therapy binds the copper particles into a compound which is then eliminated from the body by the kidneys through urine. If Copper Toxicity is diagnosed in patients then sometimes physicians remove excess copper directly from the stomach through a pump [3].

Corticosteroids are given in people who have brain inflammation as a result of Copper Toxicity. If a person with Copper Toxicity has kidney failure then he or she may have to undergo dialysis to clear the waste products out of the body. Copper Toxicity can be easily prevented if certain precautions are taken. This includes ensuring that food or water is not contaminated with heavy metals like copper. It should also be ensured that rusted or corroded copper utensils should be avoided [3].

Measures should be taken to make sure that all traces of copper are removed from tap water by passing it through a faucet supplied by a copper pipe. If a person suspects that he or she has Copper Toxicity then it is best to consult with a physician to get the condition treated timely and properly. This is especially if they start experiencing symptoms that have been mentioned in detail above like blood in stools, severe pain in the stomach, vomiting, sudden mood changes, and other symptoms like fever and cough [3].

In conclusion, copper is an element that is quite necessary for the body as it assists in a variety of functions. Copper is used in the body for metabolizing iron. It helps to build new connective tissues and blood vessels. It also helps in boosting the immune system so that the body is able to fight infections and illnesses effectively. Additionally, copper also has a role to play in various neurological functions. However, if a person is exposed to excessive copper for a prolonged period of time then it may lead to a medical condition termed as Copper Toxicity [1, 2, 3].

This is basically caused by eating and drinking contaminated food and water. Certain genetic conditions like Wilson disease also cause Copper Toxicity. Excessive copper in the body may result in significant damage to the kidney, liver, and even the brain. If timely diagnosis and treatment is not given then it may also result in fatality. Thus it is important to understand the symptoms of Copper Toxicity which have been discussed above in detail [1, 2, 3].

People need to look for more severe symptoms like blood in stools, mood changes, and problems suggesting kidney or liver dysfunction. Copper Toxicity is a treatable condition and can be done by pumping the copper from the stomach, administration of zinc, and chelation therapy, all of which have been found to be extremely effective for people with Copper Toxicity [1, 2, 3].

It is highly recommended for people to check their tap water for presence of heavy metals like copper and if present take appropriate measures so as to prevent being exposed to excessive copper leading to Copper Toxicity [1, 2, 3].