What is cortisol? Cortisol is a type of hormone that is produced by the body’s adrenal cortex. The production of such hormone is usually stimulated by the release of another hormone known as the the adrenal cortical stimulating hormone or the ACTH. In addition to this, the release of the ACTH is being synthesized by the pituitary gland. The cortisol is a very useful hormone since it plays a vital role in regulating or maintaining the blood pressure of the body. Aside from this, cortisol also has an effect to the level of sugar or glucose in the blood. It likewise plays a significant role in the functioning of the immune system and as well as in the regulation of the body’s inflammatory response. However, just like any other hormones in the body, cortisol must also be maintained within the normal level or amount in the body. This makes a lot of us wonder, what are the symptoms if high cortisol?
More facts and details about the hormone cortisol
One of the most important factors that are considered to stimulate the release of cortisol is none other the presence of stress or anxiety. In other words, the release of this particular hormone can be termed as a response of the body towards mental and as well as physical stress. High cortisol level in the body is otherwise termed medically as hypercortisolism and is usually attributed to the exposure to prolonged stress. An occasional spike or increase in the cortisol levels in the body may not indicate a serious health complication or problem. However, regular abnormal increase of this hormone can already produce several harmful effects to the immune functions and as well as fertility. This can eventually lead to the medical condition commonly known as the Cushing’s syndrome.
Possible factors that affect the level of cortisol in the body
Just like what is mentioned above, stress is one of the major and important factors that can cause the high levels of cortisol in the body. Nevertheless, an individual must be under constant stress in order to produce more cortisol in the body for a prolonged period of time. Aside from stress, the elevation of the cortisol level can also be due to hyperthyroidism, adrenal tumor and cancer. Pituitary dysfunction due to tumor or adenoma, pregnancy and as well as increased physical activities can also produce high levels of the cortisol hormone. Some drugs such as anti-inflammatory steroid medications and oral contraceptives could also produce high level of cortisol in the body.
Possible or expected symptoms of hypercortisolism
The increase of cortisol levels in the blood can cause a disruption to the normal functioning of the immune system. Because of this, the immune’s ability to prevent infection and diseases can be affected. This causes the individual to be at risk for infections and ulcer formations. Aside from this, the functioning of the thyroid gland could also be altered, which cause high blood pressure and can also lead to hyperglycemia. Nevertheless, these symptoms are not easily experienced or exhibited by the person. In fact, these elevated cortisol level symptoms are expected to appear gradually and at a slow pace.
People who suffer from elevated level of cortisol for a prolonged time have been observed to develop obesity with a very unusual body type. Fat deposition usually takes place in the abdominal and trunk area of such individuals while the limbs are rather slim or slender. Aside from the trunk and the abdomen, fat is also reportedly seen around the neck and upper back portion of the body. Because of this significant increase in body fat, the person or individual is put at risk for heart attacks and other vascular diseases due to the increase in the level of LDL cholesterol. Some of the other symptoms of high cortisol include changes in the skin conditions and increased sensitivity, production of acne or pimples in the face, the appearance of purple colored stretch marks on the body particularly in the stomach, thigh and breast areas. Hypercortisolism can also affect the cognitive ability of the person. This can also cause the individual to suffer emotional disorders such as depression and paranoia due to the elevated levels of cortisol. In addition to these symptoms, muscle and bone weakness may also be evident.
Women with hypercortisolism can also have symptoms that affect their menstrual cycle. It can even cause the cycle to stop without any prior indications. Other noticeable symptoms of high cortisol levels in women are due to the increase in the growth of body and facial hair. This can likewise lead to infertility. In men, high cortisol level can lower down their sexual drive. However, low levels of this hormone can also cause problems in health such as chronic fatigue, exhaustion and the occurrence of the condition known as Addison’s disease. Other possible symptoms of the low cortisol level in the body include weakness, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure, weight loss, low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, irritability and depression.
These are just some of the facts about high cortisol level in the body, which include the possible causes and symptoms it can produce. It is necessary for us to know that the symptoms of this health problem vary from one person to another. However, once we begin to experience symptoms that are similar or related to those that are mentioned above, we must immediately seek medical attention in order for fast and appropriate interventions to be handed. Cortisol is indeed an important hormone in the body. However, this must always be maintained within the normal level in order to prevent any untoward symptoms or reactions to the body.