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Cortisol - description and reference ranges

What is it?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone which is manufactured by the adrenal gland.

Cortisol helps to break down fat and proteins. It also stimulates production of glucose in the liver.

It is a hormone that is directly secreted in response to physical or emotional stress, changes in blood pressure, disease and inflammation, as well as cardio functions. Swings in cortisol production can show various symptoms, which can include low blood pressure, weight loss, muscle weakness and fatigue. More severe symptoms can include abdominal pain and very severe stress can cause huge releases of cortisol which will require medical attention.

Reference ranges

If your indicative cortisol concentration is lower than the reference range for our laboratory:

An underactive pituitary gland or a pituitary gland disease can lead to lower levels of ACTH. ACTH stimulates cortisol production. Or it may mean direct problem with adrenal glands that affect cortisol production.

You can discuss this result with your GP.

If your indicative cortisol is higher than the reference range for our laboratory:

Generally it is important to give the blood sample when you are not stressed as cortisol is our primary stress hormone. So high levels may mean that you were stressed when doing the sample.

If this is not the case, then it may point to several issues, such as pituitary gland issues or adreanal gland disease. High levels of cortisol may be present in the body due to medication such as contraceptive pills or steroid medicines.

You can discuss this result with your GP.

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