WHAT IS A CORTISOL TOTAL LAB TEST?
The Cortisol Lab Test is a blood test used to measure the level of cortisol in the blood.
AM I REQUIRED TO FAST FOR THIS LAB TEST?
Cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is a hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. When responding to a stressful situation cortisol prepares the body for a fight or flight response by increasing blood sugar, suppressing the immune system, and aiding in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism for increased energy. Cortisol also prevents the release of substances that cause inflammation so it is used to treat diseases that cause inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis and allergies.
Although cortisol is critical for our survival, too much cortisol is damaging to the body and can cause hyperglycemia, abdominal fat production, obesity, decreased bone density, compromised immune and inflammation response, increased blood pressure, damage to the heart, and may lead to Cushing’s syndrome. Too little and our bodies don’t function properly either. Damage to the adrenal gland or an autoimmune disease can reduce the amount of cortisol produced leading to weight loss, fatigue, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of consciousness.
WHY DO I NEED MY CORTISOL LEVEL CHECKED?
Do you have new or unusual symptoms that you can’t explain: weight loss, fatigue, muscle wasting or weakness, emotional changes, sudden high or low blood pressure, abdominal pain or dark patches of skin?
Any of these symptoms could be an indication that cortisol levels are too high or too low. Damage to the adrenal gland, chronic stress, a tumor or an autoimmune disorder can lead to abnormal cortisol levels in the blood. Because cortisol is important in dealing with stress and regulating bodily functions during stressful situations its lack can leave us unable to handle normal situations as well as stressful ones. Unusual weakness and fatigue could be signs that the body is low on cortisol.
Chronic stress, long-term use of corticosteroids, a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal gland, or cancer can lead to the overproduction of cortisol leading to high blood pressure, extra weight around the midsection and ultimately to Cushing’s syndrome. The symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include a round, reddish face, pads of fat on the chest and upper back, diabetes, high blood pressure, tendency to bruise, high blood sugar and emotional changes. Medications, surgery and/or radiation can be used to treat the effects of high or low cortisol levels.
The normal range varies throughout the day, with normal cortisol levels higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon and evening.
Morning: 5-23 mcg/dL
Evening: 3-16 mcg/dL
HIGH RESULTS INDICATE:
High results may indicate Cushing’s syndrome, severe liver or kidney disease, depression or high levels of chronic stress, hyperthyroidism, obesity, or a recent surgery, illness or whole body infection.
LOW RESULTS INDICATE:
Low results may indicate Addison’s disease due to a head injury or autoimmune disorder, shock from an injury or trauma, or Sheehan’s syndrome (a lack of cortisol due to damage to the pituitary gland during childbirth).
WHAT TYPE OF PHYSICIAN SHOULD I SEE?
If your test results are abnormal or out of range, you should see your primary care physician or an endocrinologist for further testing.