Most of the copper in the body is located in the liver, bones, and muscle, but traces of copper occur in all tissues of the body. The liver excretes excess copper into the bile for elimination from the body. Copper is a component of many enzymes, including ones that are necessary for the following:
(See also Overview of Minerals.)
Copper deficiency may be acquired or inherited. It is rare among healthy people and occurs most commonly among infants who are
Some male infants inherit a genetic abnormality that causes copper deficiency. This disorder is called Menkes syndrome.
In adults, copper deficiency may be caused by
Symptoms of copper deficiency include fatigue, anemia, and a decreased number of white blood cells. Sometimes, osteoporosis develops or nerves are damaged. Nerve damage can cause tingling and loss of sensation in the feet and hands. Muscles may feel weak. Some people become confused, irritable, and mildly depressed. Coordination is impaired.
Menkes syndrome, a genetic disorder, causes severe intellectual disability, vomiting, and diarrhea. The skin lacks pigment, and the hair is sparse, steely, or kinky. Bones may be weak and malformed, and arteries are fragile, sometimes rupturing.
The cause of copper deficiency is treated, and a copper supplement is given by mouth.
For infants with Menkes syndrome, copper is injected under the skin (subcutaneously). Despite treatment, children with Menkes syndrome usually die before they are 10 years old.