The Cortisol, 2 Specimens test contains 1 test.
Brief Description: The Cortisol 2 Specimens test is a medical analysis that measures the levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, at two specific times during the day. Cortisol plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including metabolism, immune response, and stress regulation.
Also Known As: Cortisol Total Test, Cortisol 2 Specimen Test, 2 Specimen Cortisol Test, Cortisol Blood Test, Cortisol Serum Test
Collection Method: Blood Draw
Specimen Type: Serum
Test Preparation: No preparation required
When is a Cortisol 2 Specimen test ordered?
When a person has symptoms that point to a high level of cortisol and Cushing syndrome, a cortisol test may be recommended.
Women with irregular menstrual periods and increased facial hair may be tested, and children with delayed development and small stature may also be tested.
When someone exhibits symptoms that point to a low cortisol level, adrenal insufficiency, or Addison disease, this test may be ordered.
What does a Cortisol 2 Specimen blood test check for?
Cortisol is a hormone that plays a function in protein, lipid, and carbohydrate metabolism. It has an effect on blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and immune system regulation. Only a small fraction of cortisol in the blood is "free" and biologically active; the majority is attached to a protein. Cortisol is a hormone that is produced into the urine and found in the saliva. This test determines how much cortisol is present in the blood, urine, or saliva.
Cortisol levels in the blood usually rise and fall in a pattern known as "diurnal variation." It reaches its highest point early in the morning, then gradually decreases over the day, reaching its lowest point around midnight. When a person works irregular shifts and sleeps at different times of the day, this rhythm might fluctuate, and it can be disrupted when a disease or condition inhibits or stimulates cortisol production.
The adrenal glands, two triangle organs that sit on top of the kidneys, generate and emit cortisol. The hypothalamus in the brain and the pituitary gland, a small organ below the brain, control the hormone's production. The hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormone when blood cortisol levels drop, which tells the pituitary gland to create ACTH. The adrenal glands are stimulated by ACTH to generate and release cortisol. The brain, pituitary, and adrenal glands must all be operating properly in order to produce enough levels of cortisol.
Cushing syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms associated with an unusually high cortisol level. Cortisol production may be increased as a result of:
- Large doses of glucocorticosteroid hormones are given to treat a range of ailments, including autoimmune illness and certain cancers.
- Tumors that produce ACTH in the pituitary gland and/or other regions of the body.
- Cortisol production by the adrenal glands is increased as a result of a tumor or abnormal expansion of adrenal tissues.
Rarely, CRH-producing malignancies in various regions of the body.
Cortisol production may be reduced as a result of:
- Secondary adrenal insufficiency is caused by an underactive pituitary gland or a pituitary gland tumor that prevents ACTH production.
- Primary adrenal insufficiency, often known as Addison disease, is characterized by underactive or injured adrenal glands that limit cortisol production.
After quitting glucocorticosteroid hormone medication, especially if it was abruptly stopped after a long time of use.
Lab tests often ordered with a Cortisol 2 Specimen test:
- Cortisol Saliva
- Growth Hormone
Conditions where a Cortisol 2 Specimen test is recommended:
- Cushing's Syndrome: A condition characterized by excessive cortisol production, leading to symptoms such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and changes in appearance.
- Adrenal Insufficiency: Also known as Addison's disease, it occurs when the adrenal glands don't produce enough cortisol. Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, and low blood pressure.
- Stress-Related Disorders: Chronic stress or certain psychological conditions can impact cortisol levels, affecting overall health.
How does my health care provider use a Cortisol 2 Specimen test?
A cortisol test can be used to detect Cushing syndrome, which is characterized by an excess of cortisol, as well as adrenal insufficiency or Addison disease, which are characterized by a deficiency of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates protein, lipid, and carbohydrate metabolism, among other functions. Cortisol levels in the blood normally increase and fall in a "diurnal variation" pattern, rising early in the morning, dropping during the day, and reaching their lowest point around midnight.
The adrenal glands generate and excrete cortisol. The hypothalamus in the brain and the pituitary gland, a small organ below the brain, control the hormone's production. The hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormone when blood cortisol levels drop, which tells the pituitary gland to create ACTH. The adrenal glands are stimulated by ACTH to generate and release cortisol. The brain, pituitary, and adrenal glands must all be operating properly in order to produce enough levels of cortisol.
Only a small fraction of cortisol in the blood is "free" and biologically active; the majority is attached to a protein. Blood cortisol testing assesses both protein-bound and free cortisol, but urine and saliva cortisol testing assesses only free cortisol, which should be in line with blood cortisol levels. Multiple blood and/or saliva cortisol levels collected at various times, such as 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., can be used to assess cortisol levels and diurnal variation. A 24-hour urine cortisol sample will not reveal diurnal variations; instead, it will assess the total quantity of unbound cortisol voided over the course of 24 hours.
If an elevated amount of cortisol is found, a health professional will conduct additional tests to confirm the results and discover the cause.
If a person's blood cortisol level is abnormally high, a doctor may order additional tests to be sure the high cortisol is indeed abnormal. Additional testing could involve monitoring 24-hour urinary cortisol, doing an overnight dexamethasone suppression test, and/or obtaining a salivary sample before sleep to detect cortisol at its lowest level. Urinary cortisol testing necessitates collecting urine over a set length of time, usually 24 hours. Because ACTH is released in pulses by the pituitary gland, this test can assist evaluate whether a raised blood cortisol level is a true rise.
An ACTH stimulation test may be ordered if a health practitioner feels that the adrenal glands are not releasing enough cortisol or if initial blood tests reveal insufficient cortisol production.
ACTH stimulation is a test that measures the amount of cortisol in a person's blood before and after a synthetic ACTH injection. Cortisol levels will rise in response to ACTH stimulation if the adrenal glands are functioning normally. Cortisol levels will be low if they are damaged or not working properly. To distinguish between adrenal and pituitary insufficiency, a lengthier variant of this test can be used.
What do my Cortisol Total test results mean?
Cortisol levels are typically lowest before bedtime and highest shortly after awakening, though this pattern can be disrupted if a person works rotating shifts and sleeps at various times on separate days.
Excess cortisol and Cushing syndrome are indicated by an increased or normal cortisol level shortly after awakening, as well as a level that does not diminish by bedtime. If the excess cortisol is not suppressed after an overnight dexamethasone suppression test, the 24-hour urine cortisol is elevated, or the late-night salivary cortisol level is elevated, the excess cortisol is likely due to abnormal increased ACTH production by the pituitary or a tumor outside of the pituitary, or abnormal production by the adrenal glands. Additional tests will aid in determining the root of the problem.
If the person examined responds to an ACTH stimulation test and has insufficient cortisol, the problem is most likely due to insufficient ACTH production by the pituitary. If the person does not respond to the ACTH stimulation test, the problem is most likely to be with the adrenal glands. Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands are underactive as a result of pituitary dysfunction and/or insufficient ACTH synthesis. Adrenal injury causes decreased cortisol production, which is referred to as primary adrenal insufficiency or Addison disease.
Once an irregularity has been found and linked to the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, or another source, the health practitioner may utilize additional testing, such as a CT scan, to determine the extent of any gland damage.
Most Common Questions About the Cortisol 2 Specimen test:
Clinical Utility and Interpretation
What is the primary purpose of the Cortisol 2 Specimen test?
The Cortisol 2 Specimen test is used to measure and compare cortisol levels at two different times of the day. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and plays a vital role in metabolism, immune response, and the body's stress response.
How are the results of the Cortisol 2 Specimen test typically used by healthcare professionals?
Results help in diagnosing conditions such as Cushing's syndrome, which is characterized by excessive cortisol, and Addison's disease, which involves reduced cortisol production. It also helps in evaluating adrenal gland function and understanding how well the body's circadian rhythm regulates cortisol production.
Clinical Applications and Diagnoses
Why are two specimens required for the Cortisol 2 Specimen test?
Cortisol levels in the body naturally fluctuate throughout the day, peaking in the morning and gradually decreasing by evening. Collecting two specimens allows for an assessment of this diurnal variation, which can be crucial for accurate diagnosis.
How do the morning and evening cortisol levels differ, and why is this significant?
Morning levels of cortisol are usually higher due to the body's natural circadian rhythm. This surge helps individuals wake up and become alert. Lower levels in the evening contribute to the body's preparation for sleep. Abnormal patterns, like elevated evening cortisol, can indicate potential adrenal gland issues or disorders related to the body's internal clock.
Understanding Limitations and Challenges
How do the results of the Cortisol 2 Specimen test compare with the 24-hour urinary cortisol test?
The Cortisol 2 Specimen test provides insights into the natural diurnal variation in cortisol levels by measuring cortisol at two distinct times of day. In contrast, the 24-hour urinary cortisol test measures the total cortisol excreted in the urine over a 24-hour period. Both tests have their merits. The 24-hour test offers a cumulative view, while the 2 Specimen test provides a snapshot of the diurnal variation.
If the Cortisol 2 Specimen test reveals abnormal levels, what might be the next diagnostic steps?
If abnormal cortisol patterns are detected, additional tests might be recommended, such as an ACTH stimulation test to evaluate adrenal gland function or dexamethasone suppression test to check for Cushing's syndrome. Imaging tests like CT or MRI might also be used to visualize the adrenal or pituitary glands.
Additional Questions and Insights
Can stress or illness affect the results of the Cortisol 2 Specimen test?
Yes, stress, acute illness, or even recent surgery can lead to temporary elevations in cortisol levels. It's essential for patients to inform their healthcare provider of any recent stressors or illnesses as these can influence the interpretation of results.
Are there any conditions or medications that can affect the circadian rhythm of cortisol secretion?
Certain conditions, like chronic insomnia, jet lag, or shift work sleep disorder, can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm, potentially affecting cortisol secretion patterns. Some medications, especially glucocorticoids, can also influence cortisol levels and its diurnal variation.
We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.