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Low Cortisol


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#1 Kathy D

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Posted 09 May 2010 - 12:36 PM

During gynecological testing my cortisol showed up low. I have an appointment with an endocrinologist later this month, what can you tell me about cortisol?

Kathy
Diffuse Scleroderma Diagnosed March 2009

#2 Jeannie McClelland

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Posted 09 May 2010 - 04:47 PM

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the cortex of the adrenal gland in response to other hormones produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. It affects many ares of the body such as:
  • Bone
  • Circulatory system
  • Immune system
  • Metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein
  • Nervous system
  • Stress response
Too little cortisol or too much cortisol can really put the body out of whack.

It's my understanding (and I sure could be wrong on this), that prolonged therapy with prednisone or the like can cause the adrenal glands to atrophy and produce less cortisol, which is why doctors slowly wean patients off steroids in order to give the adrenal glands time to recover and function at a more normal level. Cortisol is one of the 'stress hormones' and I also believe that prolonged stress can exhaust the adrenal glands, causing them to produce less cortisol.

When you see the endocrinologist, he or she might order a rather long test that measures how much cortisol your body produces in response to a measured dose of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) over a period some hours. The test demonstrates how well the adrenals are producing cortisol. The nurse will put in a 'line' and will draw blood from the line at intervals over several hours. It's not painful, but it is boring. I took both a book and a nap!

Hope this helps!
Jeannie McClelland
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#3 Kathy D

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 01:33 AM

Morning Jeannie,

Thanks for the reply. If its not too personal, why were you tested and how did it all turn out?
Diffuse Scleroderma Diagnosed March 2009

#4 Jeannie McClelland

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 12:14 PM

Hi Kathy,

I was tested because I was having symptoms of adrenal insufficiency. I'd been on prednisone for several years, got weaned off it and nearly a year later was still having some signs that my own system hadn't returned to full functioning. The tests showed my system was 'recovering' but not quite up to par. I've since developed hypothyroidism and now take medication for that. I'm back on a low dose of prednisone too. I know the side effects aren't great, but for me the benefit is greater.

Warm hugs,
Jeannie McClelland
(Retired) ISN Director of Support Services
(Retired) ISN Sclero Forums Manager
(Retired) ISN Blog Manager
(Retired) ISN Assistant News Guide
(Retired) ISN Artist
International Scleroderma Network