High cortisol symptoms

Cortisol is a type of hormone of the human body. It is produced in a part of the adrenal gland known as the adrenal cortex. Cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone,” is responsible for regulation of blood sugar, production of energy, proper functioning of the immune system, inflammation and healing. As any other hormone, optimum levels of cortisol are necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Excess or low levels of cortisol may jeopardize a person’s well being. High levels of cortisol generally occur when a person is subject to a lot of stress. While emotional stress is one major cause, stresses caused due to the environment or due to physical reasons such as injury may also be the culprit in cases of high cortisol. We shall now take a look at some of the high cortisol symptoms.

Recent studies have shown that high cortisol is directly related to weight gain as well as difficulties experienced while trying to lose weight. While not the only reason for weight gain, high cortisol may be one of the culprits. Hence if a person has been putting on weight with no explanation it may be a high cortisol symptom. Elevated levels of cortisol especially when chronic, causes accumulation of fat around the abdomen and is usually very difficult to shed.

Another high cortisol symptom is a condition known as Cushing’s syndrome. This tends to occur when the tissues of the body are exposed to high cortisol levels for a long period of time. Women suffering from this syndrome experience symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycle and abnormal growth of facial, chest, neck and abdomen hair. Men with Cushing’s syndrome tend to have low sex drives and sometimes erectile dysfunction. Obesity of the upper body is common in people with this ailment. One of the more specific symptoms is fat accumulation around the neck and face, while the arms and legs are relatively slimmer. Other symptoms are increased thirst and urination, pink or purple stretch marks on the abdomen, depression, anxiety, irritability, high blood pressure and blood glucose, weak muscles and fatigue.

Normal cortisol production in the body generally follows a pattern depending on the time of the day. The highest levels occur around 8 am and then continue to drop throughout the day, reaching the lowest levels at night. Compensations therefore need to be made by the body in case of a person suffering from high cortisol levels during the night. This in turn affects the sleep pattern, and causes inability to relax or go to sleep. The REM stage of the sleep where the body conducts repairs of all its tissues is disturbed, thus causing more fatigue. Insomnia is one of the high cortisol symptoms that need to be watched out for.

Cortisol hormone is known to regulate the brain neurons and their electrical activity. In case of high cortisol, the behavior of neurons can get affected. This in turn would influence a person’s mood, memory and behavior. A lot of bodily functions as well as emotions can get affected depending on which neurons are not working normally. Low tolerance levels, bursts of anger, inability to think clearly and some level of memory loss or poor memory retrieval are the symptoms of high cortisol affecting neurons.

In the case of several of these high cortisol symptoms occurring persistently in a person, they should consider getting themselves tested. Doctors are generally able to detect high cortisol by tests conducted on the saliva, and additionally by examining the urine. It is also important to determine the reason behind high cortisol levels and provide the appropriate treatment. In most cases, reduction of stress is vital to return cortisol to levels of normalcy within the body. Following a diet which is low in sugar and complementing the diet with supplements may also be of help.

Last updated on May 2nd, 2010 and filed under Endocrine System. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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