Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
posted by The Live Better Team | September 7, 2017
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that’s produced by the adrenal glands. It’s the primary hormone involved in stress and the “fight-or-flight” response our brains naturally have to perceived threats or danger—when you experience a stressor, a hormone in your brain triggers the adrenal glands to release cortisone and adrenaline. During this release, cortisol suppresses other functions.
Cortisol Levels and Testing
Testing is done to determine if cortisol levels are too high or too low in the adrenal glands. The timing of the test can be very important—cortisol levels vary during the day, rising during the early morning and peaking around 7 am.
Preparation for a Cortisol Test
You may be asked to prepare in some of the following ways:
Result ranges vary, but they may mean some of the following:
High levels: High levels of cortisol may signal Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder caused by overactive adrenal glands. This might also mean liver disease, depression, hyperthyroidism or obesity. High levels can also be caused by pregnancy or birth control pills in some cases, or by things like recent surgery, illness, injury or whole-body infection.
Low levels: Low levels of cortisol in the blood can be caused by conditions affecting the adrenal glands, such as Addison’s disease or tuberculosis in the adrenal glands. They can also relate to issues with the pituitary gland that affect the adrenal glands, including cancer or a head injury.
Results of a cortisol test can be affected by several factors, and in some cases these factors will make you unable to complete the test. Some of these factors include:
If you have abnormal levels of cortisol, your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan.
Our Utah County Endocrinologist helps diagnose and treat endocrine system disorders—including complex cases. As trained specialists, our providers know the latest treatments and technologies to treat a variety of disorders.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.