Cortisol, a steroid hormone, is synthesized from cholesterol. It is synthesized in the zona fasciculata layer of the adrenal cortex. Cortisol has many functions in the human body, such as mediating the stress response, regulating metabolism, the inflammatory response, and immune function.
Blood levels of cortisol vary throughout the day, but generally are higher in the morning when we wake up, and then fall throughout the day. This is called a diurnal rhythm. In people that work at night, this pattern is reversed, so the timing of cortisol release is clearly linked to daily activity patterns. In response to stress, extra cortisol is released to help the body respond appropriately.
Too much cortisol over a prolonged period can lead to a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. This can be caused by a wide range of factors, such as a tumor that produces adrenocorticotropic hormone (and therefore increases cortisol secretion) or taking certain types of drugs. A few of the symptoms include rapid weight gain, a flushed and round face, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, skin changes (bruises and purple stretch marks), muscle weakness, and mood swings.
Too little cortisol may be due to a problem in the pituitary gland or the adrenal gland (Addison’s disease). The onset of symptoms is often very gradual. Symptoms may include fatigue, dizziness (especially upon standing), weight loss, muscle weakness, mood changes, and the darkening of regions of the skin. Without treatment, this is a potentially life-threatening condition.
Solaris Diagnostic Laboratory Cortisol assay is a competitive immunoassay using direct chemiluminescent technology and can provide results within 24 hours from the time the sample is received in the laboratory.
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