Cortisol deficiency symptoms

The adrenal glands produce a number of different hormones that are vital to survival. These two small glands are located above each kidney and are made up of two sections, an outer ring called the cortex and an inner section called the medulla. Each produces specific hormones. The cortex is responsible for producing cortisol. When the adrenal gland receives the hormone adrenocorticotropin from the pituitary gland, it starts to release cortisol. However, it is possible for the adrenal glands to start functioning at a lower level than normal. This under activity is known as hypoadrenalism, and it results in a cortisol deficiency. This deficiency, if not dealt with quickly, can actually be fatal.

Much of the adrenal glands’ functions are determined by the pituitary gland. Because of this, if either of these glands malfunctions, a person can develop a cortisol deficiency. The pituitary gland is capable of sensing how much cortisol is in the blood. If it detects low amounts of cortisol, it will release more adrenocorticotropin so the adrenal glands will make more cortisol. However, if the pituitary gland doesn’t release enough of this hormone or if the adrenal glands don’t make enough cortisol, you may become deficient.

There are many different things that cause cortisol deficiency. One is called Addison’s disease. It occurs when the adrenal glands fail. This is generally caused by a problem with the immune system. For whatever reason, the immune system creates antibodies that actually attack healthy tissues instead of bacteria or viruses. In this case, they attack the adrenal cortex. Tuberculosis in the adrenal glands can also damage the entire gland, leading to cortisol deficiency. There are several other rare conditions that can cause a cortisol deficiency, including certain drugs, HIV, sarcoidosis, and certain cancers.

Secondary hypoadrenalism occurs when the pituitary gland is damaged and doesn’t produce enough adrenocorticotropin. The pituitary gland cannot tell the difference between natural cortisol and some synthetic steroids and medications, and in some cases, it sees certain medications as cortisol. It then stops producing adrenocorticotropin. In tern, the adrenal cortex becomes mostly inactive. If the treatment is abruptly stopped, the adrenal glands won’t be able to produce enough cortisol to keep up the correct levels, leading to a deficiency. It can actually take months for them to return to their full ability. Because of this, patients on these specific drugs must slowly lower their dosage over time instead of stopping immediately.

There are a number of symptoms of cortisol deficiency. Hypoadrenalism generally comes on slowly, though, and it’s not easy to catch the symptoms right away. However, those affected will eventually start to feel dizzy, and they may even faint. They will also feel weak, experience major fatigue, and start to lose weight. Some people also noted stomachaches or odd feelings in their guts.

While these symptoms can be caused by a number of things, cortisol deficiency has one symptom that is usually key in its diagnosis. Because of the large amount of adrenocorticotropin in the blood, a person develops what looks like a permanent sun tan. This tan persists for months and is a major clue to cortisol deficiency, especially if the patient is rarely outside.

Some people with cortisol deficiency find themselves getting easily depressed or have difficulty thinking and focusing on tasks. Others may experience pains in their muscles or joints. In some very rare cases, the adrenal glands will actually start bleeding, which leads to acute back pain. In this case, patients need to see a doctor right away, especially if they are taking any sort of anticoagulants that stop blood clots. Bleeding can also be caused by severe infections.

Last updated on Jan 18th, 2010 and filed under Endocrine System. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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