Low cortisol symptoms

Cortisol levels are controlled by adrenal glands. These levels decline to a certain extent naturally with age. Cortisol is a natural hormone that regulates both blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Cortisol does even more. It regulates the delicate balance between water and salt levels in the body and how your body handles stress. It also regulates energy levels and has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. When a person’s cortisol levels get too low it is called hypocortisolism. This condition can develop into Addison’s disease which is a serious medical condition which can be life threatening. Low cortisol symptoms are primarily seen in people who are between 30 and 50 years old. Low cortisol symptoms must be treated with prescription medications for the remainder of one’s life. It is important that people who have hypocortisolism never miss a dose of their medication because they can go into adrenal failure and die. If you are experiencing low cortisol symptoms you should see your doctor for a check up and evaluation.

Low cortisol symptoms can develop over a period of time and you may not connect the symptoms as being an illness. The symptoms can vary from person to person. Muscle weakness, muscle pain, joint pain, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, mood changes, depression and irritability as well as the darkening of skin are all low cortisol symptoms. Darkening of the moles and freckles is also common when cortisol levels are low. This is called hyperpigmentation.

Other low cortisol symptoms include outbursts of anger, inability to handle stress, shakiness, being emotionally hypersensitive, body aches, scalp ache, jittery feelings, clumsiness, feeling light headed, clumsiness, increased need to urinate frequently, insomnia and dark circles under the eyes. Many people will also experience flu like symptoms when they have low cortisol levels. Frequent diarrhea is also another symptom of low cortisol levels.

Low cortisol symptoms in children are basically the same as in adults. Low cortisol levels in children are rare however. Children with low cortisol levels need to be monitored for emotional stress, physical activity and illness. Their glucose levels also need to be monitored and if an adrenal crisis occurs the parent should be ready to given injections of medication. The child should also wear a medical alert bracelet.

Extremely low cortisol levels can result in more acute symptoms that can come on suddenly and can have life threatening consequences. Low cortisol levels and crisis symptoms include leg pain, lower back pain, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Also, very low blood pressure, high potassium levels and fainting. These symptoms necessitate immediate medical intervention. Low cortisol levels can bring on an allergic reaction to your own body and autoimmune conditions can develop like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjorgrn’s Syndrome. Low cortisol levels can also lead to the person being more susceptible to infections.

When a person is experiencing low cortisol symptoms they need to have blood tests done to determine their exact cortisol levels. A blood test will be done on potassium, sodium and ACTH levels as well as cortisol levels at the same time. To measure the ACTH levels the person must be given a shot of synthetic ACTH first. Then the doctor will test the cortisol levels. An MRI or CT scan may also be done so the doctor can see the condition of the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland. If the test shows the person does indeed have low cortisol levels the treatment for their low cortisol symptoms can include prescription medications. These medications are corticosteroids classified as hydrocortisones and are used to replace the cortisol that the body is not making.

Last updated on Sep 15th, 2010 and filed under Endocrine System. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses for “Low cortisol symptoms”

  1. Anna says:

    The statement that “Low cortisol symptoms must be treated with prescription medications for the remainder of one’s life,” is incorrect.

    I myself have healed my adrenals and no longer need medication and I have two doctor friends that work with patients that have low cortisol symptoms who help people heal their adrenals.

    I think whomever wrote this article needs to go back and do a little more research.

  2. John says:

    @ Anne. A few individual case studies are personal experiences not sufficient to rewrite current literature of the most common medical standards of treatment. These articles give the norm for treatments and symptoms. There will always be a few exceptions.

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