Hypercortisolemia: Description, Causes and Risk Factors Cortisol is an essential glucocorticoid hormone, a subgroup of steroid hormones, the major hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Hormones are messenger substances, substances produced in one gland or area of the body that move through the blood and stimulate activity in other glands or areas. Glucocorticoid hormones affect carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Steroid hormones are hormones related to cholesterol. Hypercortisolemia refers to high amounts of circulating cortisol and may be a pathological or non-pathological condition.hypercortisolemia Medigoo The natural regulation of cortisol is governed by a circular feedback response system. Output is initiated when pituitary gland secretions of adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) travel to and stimulate the adrenal glands located atop the kidneys near the middle of the upper back. From the adrenals, cortisol travels to its target tissues, initiating a series of reactions known as the "flight-or-fight" response. Information from these target tissues is monitored by the brain. If the messages received tell the brain that more help is needed, the pituitary gland is stimulated to secrete more ACTH, which stimulates increased secretion of cortisol. The most significant feedback factor is stress. When stress levels are reported to the brain as high, high levels of cortisol are released in response. When stress remains high indefinitely, cortisol levels may also remain high indefinitely, producing a series of biochemical, physiological and even anatomical reactions. Other Risk Factors:
  • Stress.
  • Hyperthyroidism.
  • Pituitary gland disorder.
  • Adrenal gland disorder.
  • Certain medications.
Cortisol levels in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were studied in ovariectomized, estrogen-treated monkeys during either prolonged hypercortisolemia or the more transient effects of a bolus injection of cortisol. Control (saline-treated) animals showed the expected diurnal rhythm in serum cortisol, but proportionately more cortisol was present in the CSF when serum levels were high (i.e. in the morning). Prolonged hypercortisolemia for up to 37 days was produced by either thrice daily injections of cortisol itself or single daily injections of ACTH1-24 in the morning. Both treatments produced disproportionately larger amounts of cortisol in the CSF than in the serum, and the CSF/serum cortisol ratio was increased. Furthermore, prolonged ACTH treatment caused a marked elevation in CSF cortisol in afternoon samples taken at 16:30 hr compared with those at 10:00 h, in the absence of a similar change in serum cortisol levels. The relative importance of entry and clearance of cortisol in the CSF in these conditions was studied in several ways. Free cortisol levels in serum (determined by equilibrium dialysis) were equal to CSF cortisol levels in control monkeys, but were less than those in the CSF of hypercortisolemic animals. Entry of cortisol into CSF after a bolus injection was rapid, but, unlike serum, CSF cortisol levels did not decline significantly over a 70-min sampling period and the delayed clearance from the CSF could account for some of the effects seen during hypercortisolemia. Neither high levels of prolactin (which is elevated together with cortisol in `stress'), induced by giving sulpiride, nor treatment with progesterone (which is also bound by corticosteroid binding globulin) altered the distribution of cortisol between blood and CSF. The concentrations of cortisol in the CSF therefore are regulated by factors influencing both its entry and clearance from the cerebral compartment. Neural tissues sensitive to cortisol are thus exposed to levels of this hormone that are both qualitatively and quantitatively different from those expected by direct extrapolation from serum levels. Symptoms: The signs of hypercortisolemia usually become evident when the level goes beyond the normal amount required for normal metabolic function. There are adverse effects in moods and physiological functions of the body when there is increased cortisol levels produced in the body. The resulting high cortisol symptoms include calling fats, carbohydrates and protein to come into action thereby resulting to increased fat storage in the body resulting to gaining of weight. The high cortisol symptom of weight gain is often not significant in the early stage of increased cortisol level. The weight gained is often insignificant in the mild stage of the condition. However overtime, one can notice that there is a gradual increase on the size of abdominal area. Constant exposure to stressful events or activities of any form will continuously activate the production of cortisol in the body and may result to Cushing's syndrome. The resulting high cortisol symptoms in Cushing Syndrome include irregular periods in women and they may experience growth of facial hair while men have reduced sex drive. Others experience high cortisol symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, mood swings, abdominal stretch marks, and development of fatty tissues on the upper back and face. Studies also revealed that among the high cortisol symptoms are decreased memory on numbers, name and words.

Hypercortisolemia Diagnosis:

Initial diagnosis may be made through the office of a family practice physician or internist on the basis of signs and symptoms, physical examination, and lab work including testing levels of circulating cortisol. Three types of testing are available to check cortisol levels: 24-hour urine collection; blood testing; and, saliva sampling. Treatment: Assistance from a professional healthcare provider is recommended. Preventive alternative care may focus on stress reduction primarily. Since stress may be induced by emotional demands, dietary and nutritional imbalances, subclinical illness (illness which may not have fully shown itself), and physical inactivity, an alternative-minded medical doctor, a licensed naturopathic physician, or other professional alternative healthcare provider may first work to reestablish balance through lifestyle changes specific to individual need. Treatment may include counseling; dietary and nutritional therapies; energy therapies, such as Reiki, Tai-Chi, Qi Gong, Healing Touch; Traditional Chinese medicine, including Chinese herbals and acupuncture; chiropractic; Ayurvedic medicine; environmental medicine; homeopathy; relaxation therapy; Biofeedback; Craniosacral work; massage; exercise therapies; shamanism; and faith-based therapies, including prayer, meditation, yoga and other spiritual exercises. Dietary supplement products to block cortisol or correct underlying dietary and nutritional insufficiencies are also being advertised. NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.  


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