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Ceruloplasmin is a protein that contains copper, a mineral needed by the body for red blood cell production and iron transport. It is mostly produced by the liver for the purpose of transporting copper through the blood system. The ceruloplasmin blood test measures the amount of this protein present in the patient's blood. It is sometimes done together with some urine tests for copper.
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Why is a Ceruloplasmin Blood Test Ordered?
When a doctor observes signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of Wilson's disease in a patient, a ceruloplasmin blood test is frequently ordered. Wilson's disease, also referred to as hepatolenticular degeneration, is a genetic disorder resulting in the accumulation of copper in the tissues of the brain and liver. Its symptoms include jaundice, anemia, behavioral changes, nausea, abdominal pains, tremors, difficulty swallowing and walking difficulty.
An autosomal recessive condition, Wilson's disease, can only manifest in children when both parent have the defective gene called the Wilson's disease protein gene or ATP7B gene. Manifestation of neuropsychiatric problems often occur in affected individuals usually around the age of 20. Those who present with liver symptoms during their teens are often diagnosed with the disease earlier.
Since ceruloplasmin carries copper, doctors may sometimes order a ceruloplasmin blood test if a patient is suspected of suffering from copper deficiency or having problems with copper metabolism.
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How is the Test Performed?
The area of the upper arm where blood is to be taken is first cleaned with antiseptic. The arm is then wrapped by an elastic band to put pressure on the arm. Once the vein in the target area is ready, a needle is used to access the vein. After an appropriate amount of blood is collected, the elastic band and needle are removed and the punctured part of the skin is covered. This test does not require fasting or any other kind of preparation. It does not usually cause pain, although there may be some throbbing and mild discomfort after in the arm after the test.
There might be risks involved in conducting the test, but these are just minor risks. These include lightheadedness, bleeding, hematoma, infection and fainting.
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What Do the Test Results Mean?
Low levels of ceruloplasmin in the blood and high levels of urine copper, may indicate Wilson's disease.
In rare cases, normal levels of this protein with high levels of urine copper may also be indicative of Wilson's disease.
When both ceruloplasmin and urine copper levels are low, it may be an indication of copper deficiency.
High levels of ceruloplasmin may be seen in pregnancy, lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis, and in acute and chronic infections.
Aside from detecting Wilson's disease, results of ceruloplasmin blood tests can also be used to evaluate liver cirrhosis, chronic active hepatitis and other kinds of liver disease.