Cortisol is a hormone with lots of bodily functions, including your body’s response to fight or flight when faced with stress. In the face of danger, your brain releases a powerful chemical called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone triggers the adrenal gland to release cortisol. Your body uses cortisol to stop all nonessential physical processes, including immune, reproductive, and growth processes. This prioritization of sorts makes you have a surge of energy and strength to deal with your threat. Cortisol also triggers emotions leading to fear and anger.
Cortisol is associated with the support of different body systems including
- Immune system
- Skeletal system
- Nervous system
- Digestive system
- Circulatory system
The procedure for having a cortisol blood test
Doctors often recommend scheduling cortisol tests in the morning because it is when cortisol levels are at their highest. Cortisol levels can be affected by emotional stress, physical stress, and illness. Some drugs may affect the levels of cortisol so the doctor may ask you to lay off them. They include.
- Drugs with estrogen
- Synthetic glucocorticoids
They can be decreased by
- Drugs with androgens
A cortisol blood test involves blood being drawn from your body for a lab test.
How to test for cortisol at home
You can perform a cortisol test on your own using a cortisol saliva test kit. For accurate results, your health care provider may advise that you complete the test at home using the steps provided
- Avoid eating, drinking or brushing your teeth 15-30 minutes before you take the test
- Collect your sample as advised by your health provider, which should be between 11 pm and 12 am.
- Swap inside your mouth
- Roll the swab until it is covered in saliva, preferably 2 minutes
- Do not touch the front of the swab with your fingers; this may contaminate the sample.
- Put the swab back into the container and return it to the health care provider
- Make sure that you remember to label your swab.
Interpreting the cortisol test results
Higher cortisol levels may indicate the following
- There might be a tumor or an excessive growth of pituitary glands making it tor release too much ACTH
- If a tumor develops in you adrenal gland your body will release too much cortisol
- You have a tumor somewhere in your body that triggers the excess presence of cortisol in your body.
- This could mean you have Cushing’s syndrome
What lower cortisol levels mean
- You may have Addison’s disease which results from low levels of cortisol in your body
- You are suffering from hypopituitarism that happens when the pituitary glands fail to stimulate the adrenal glands to produce cortisol
In most cases, if your doctor orders for a cortisol test, it is to diagnose if you have a disorder. Even though additional testing may be required to confirm a diagnosis, usually your doctor will discuss your results with you and advise further. There are no side effects related to a cortisol test, and you should be able to go back to your daily activities undisturbed.