by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Hypocupremia; Cu Deficiency)


Copper deficiency is a low level of copper in the body. Copper is a mineral our bodies get from food. We need it in small amounts to make energy, connective tissue, and blood vessels. It also plays a role in brain development and helps the nervous and immune systems work as they should.


This problem may be caused by:

  • Not absorbing enough copper from the digestive tract
  • Not getting enough copper in the diet due to malnutrition
  • Problems with the kidneys, such as nephrotic syndrome and glomerulonephritis

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Prior gastric surgery
  • Health problems that make it hard for the body to absorb copper, such as Celiac disease, Crohn disease, and cystic fibrosis
  • Poor nutrition
  • Changes in genes that transport copper (Menkes disease)


Problems may be:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lightened patches of skin
  • Hair that is sparse, gray, or kinky
  • Problems breathing during activity
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Rapid heartbeat


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to suspect copper deficiency.

The diagnosis can be confirmed with a blood test to check copper levels.


Any underlying health problems will need to be treated.

The goal of treatment is to increase copper levels. This can be done with a copper supplement.


Copper deficiency cannot always be prevented. The risk may be lowered for some with a change in diet. Copper is found in foods like shellfish, nuts, and cereals.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 

Office of Dietary Supplements—National Institutes of Health 


The College of Family Physicians of Canada 

Health Canada 


Copper. Office of Dietary Supplements—National Institutes of Health website. Available at:  . Accessed August 2, 2021.

Copper deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 2, 2021.

Copper deficiency. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed August 2, 2021.

Revision Information