Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Whenever your body perceives something as a threat, like a huge rattlesnake, a chemical substance called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) will be released in your brain. This triggers your adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol plays a crucial role in your body: it participates in the breakdown of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, maintains blood pressure and regulates the immune system, to name just a few.
Why is cortisol quantitative test performed?
The cortisol quantitative test is performed to check whether your cortisol production levels are too high or too low. Some diseases, such as the Addison’s disease and the Cushing’s disease, affect the level of cortisol produced by your adrenal glands. This The cortisol quantitative test is used to diagnose those diseases and as a means of assessing the functioning of the adrenal and pituitary glands.
The high level of cortisol could be a sign of Cushing syndrome, with symptoms like:
- Obesity, especially in the torso, face, and neck, with thinner arms and legs
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Fragile skin that bruises easily
- Pink or purple streaks on the stomach, thighs, or buttocks
- Muscle weakness
- For women, irregular menstrual periods and excess hair on the face and chest
Too little cortisol could be a sign of Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency. It could also be a sign of another problem with your adrenal glands. You may have the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Fatigue, or extreme tiredness
- Low blood pressure
- Belly pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Dark patches of skin
- For women, decreased armpit and pubic hair and decreased sexual desire
Test results may vary based on age, gender, health history, test methods, and other factors. You can use fluorescence immunoassay to get a precise result. Take, for example, the Finecare’s Cortisol Rapid Quantitative Test, which is used for quantitative determination of cortisol in human serum, plasma, or whole blood. It can be used for screening of adrenal dysfunction and assessment of the treatment effect as well.
How to collect test samples?
Elbow venous blood is usually possible, but in some cases, urine and saliva samples are included. The whole blood cortisol concentration should be measured at 8 am (peak cortisol secretion) and 4 pm (decrease cortisol level). In some tests, blood samples are taken at midnight to determine cortisol levels at the lowest level of secretion.
Cortisol quantitative test usually involves the following steps:
- The flow of blood in the arm is stopped by wrapping an elastic band around your upper arm. This can make the veins more visible.
- The technician will identify the vein and clean the surrounding area with an alcohol-based wipe.
- The technician inserts a needle into the exposed vein.
- Blood from the vein will pass through the needle into one or more small collection tubes.
- The technician will remove the rubber band before removing the needle and applying pressure to the bleeding point.
- Pressure is applied to the area using cotton or gauze. A bandage is used to secure the cotton or gauze.
- The technician then sends the blood to the laboratory for processing and inspection. The technician can use various test methods to measure the level of cortisol. A case in point is the Finecare’s Cortisol Rapid Quantitative Test, which enables the technician to get result in 15 minutes.
What might affect the test results?
The cortisol levels vary in response to many events. For instance, if you work at night and sleep during the day, your cortisol levels may not be in the normal range.
The cortisol levels may be higher than normal due to physical trauma and stress. Women in their last three months of pregnancy and highly trained athletes may have higher-than-normal levels of cortisol. Other factors like alcoholism, malnutrition, and panic disorder are also included.
Some drugs, especially oral contraceptives and any medicine that contains glucocorticoids, or steroid hormones similar to cortisol, can also affect your cortisol level.
How do the patients get ready for this test?
They may need to take a break before the test to relieve stress. They also need to avoid medicines that may affect their test results. Make sure their health care provider knows about all the medicines, herbs, vitamins and supplements they are taking. This includes medicines that do not require prescription and any illegal drugs they may use.
Multiple tests can help doctors assess cortisol secretion throughout the day. A single sample test is insufficient to determine changes in cortisol concentration. Therefore, your test results may not mean that you have a problem. What you need to do is to ask your healthcare provider what the test results mean to you.