Raised cortisol levels (Cushing’s syndrome) can lead to rapid weight gain, especially around the waist, excessive body hair (in women) and loss of libido and erectile dysfunction (in men).
Low levels of cortisol (Addison’s disease) can lead to fatigue, nausea, skin discoloration and low blood pressure.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is vital for survival given its role in various functions such as immunity, regulating blood pressure and releasing insulin for blood sugar maintenance. Cortisol has been termed ‘the stress hormone’ because it is secreted in higher quantities during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body.
This test establishes the levels of cortisol in the blood. Cushing’s syndrome is caused by too much cortisol, while Addison’s disease is caused by damage to the adrenal glands, and is associated with too little cortisol.