In an earlier post he spoke of vitamin B12 deficiency as a possible source of neurological symptoms in the legs, such as paresthesias. With these types of posts I want to highlight how our illness may not be due to a herniated disc at times, even if it seems so. That is why it is always advisable to evaluate a doctor. There is a syndrome that produces a picture very similar to the deficit of vitamin B12 that is the deficiency of copper. In fact in patients with vitamin B12 deficiency that do not improve after replenishing the vitamin, the next step is to assess whether the problem is in an added copper deficit.
The first reaction may be of surprise to discover that we have copper in the body and above if we lack sickness. Well it is so. It is not entirely clear why the copper deficit causes the neurological problems we will see. It is known that copper is part of enzymatic reactions important for the nervous system to function well and probably this is the origin.
What are the symptoms of the copper deficit?
Copper deficiency affects the spinal cord and gives neurological symptoms such as instability in gait and alterations of sensitivity. It is very similar to what we said in the post about the vitamin B12 deficit. Although this is the most common form it can also affect the peripheral nerves. Most have paresthesias in the legs and may also appear focal lesions such as a drooping foot or paralysis of a muscle group in the upper limbs. Usually, the involvement of peripheral nerves goes hand in hand with spinal cord involvement.
We have talked about the neurological affections but it does not end here. Copper deficiency also causes anemia and leukopenia, that is, lower red blood cells and white blood cells.
Why can we miss copper?
There are several possible causes. It is very rare that we do not take enough in diet. The problem is usually that there is a problem that prevents it from absorbing well in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common are gastric surgeries. We also have intestinal diseases that are associated with malabsorption problems such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. A curious cause of copper deficiency is the excessive intake of zinc. Copper and zinc compete to be absorbed in the digestive tract. If we take too much zinc we may lack copper.
How do we diagnose and treat the copper deficit?
When doctors suspect the disease, a determination of copper in blood can be made. In some cases it is not so simple and it would have to make other determinations, but for not complicating the explanation, that would be the majority of the time. As with any spinal cord injury, we are also likely to have an MRI scan of the spine to assess the lesion and rule out other possible damage.
If a copper deficit is confirmed, we have to take supplements of this substance. The route of administration depends on the cause. Often giving oral supplements of salts containing copper is sufficient. In other cases it will need to be punctured, intramuscularly or intravenously. As we have discussed, excess zinc can cause copper deficit. Therefore, if we suspect that this is the cause we must determine the origin and limit this intake.
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