Optimal Result: 0 - 0.15 mcg/dL.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a crucial steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, involved in various vital functions including the regulation of metabolism, blood sugar levels, anti-inflammatory actions, and the body's response to stress. To gauge an individual's physiological stress levels or diurnal rhythm, saliva is often used as a non-invasive medium for measuring cortisol.

What is LC/MS?

The liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS) method is a preferred analytical technique for these assessments due to its high specificity and sensitivity in detecting and quantifying cortisol in saliva.

Why are three or more samples collected?

When three samples are collected, it typically represents a strategy to capture the diurnal variation of cortisol. Morning, afternoon, and evening samples can provide insight into the natural peak and decline of cortisol throughout the day, aiding in the diagnosis of conditions such as adrenal insufficiency or Cushing's syndrome, or simply providing data on an individual's stress response over time.

What are late-night samples used for?

Late-night cortisol testing is a diagnostic procedure used primarily to detect conditions associated with abnormal cortisol secretion patterns, such as Cushing's syndrome. Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, typically follows a diurnal rhythm in healthy individuals. This means that cortisol levels peak in the early morning hours and decline to their lowest levels in the late evening and early night. In conditions like Cushing's syndrome, this natural rhythm can be disrupted, leading to elevated cortisol levels late at night. As a result, measuring cortisol levels during the late-night hours, often via a saliva test, can be a crucial indicator of abnormal adrenal function. A late-night salivary cortisol test is non-invasive, easy to administer, and can be conducted in the comfort of one's home, making it a valuable tool for endocrinologists and other healthcare professionals in the evaluation of adrenal disorders.

What is Cushing's syndrome?

Cushing's syndrome is a hormonal disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body's tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol.

This condition can be the result of various factors:

Endogenous sources:

→ Pituitary adenomas: Sometimes called Cushing's disease, this form is the most common and is caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland, leading it to produce too much of the hormone ACTH. ACTH then stimulates the adrenal glands to produce an excess amount of cortisol.

→ Adrenal gland tumors: Either benign or malignant tumors in the adrenal glands can lead to excessive cortisol production.

→ Ectopic ACTH-producing tumors: Some tumors, often lung tumors, can produce ACTH, which, in turn, stimulates the adrenal glands.

Exogenous sources:

This form is related to the prolonged use of glucocorticoid medications (like prednisone) for conditions like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or autoimmune diseases.

Symptoms and complications of Cushing's syndrome can vary, but they commonly include:

→ Weight gain, especially around the midsection and upper back

→ Moon face (a round, red face)

→ A hump between the shoulders

→ Thinning of the skin, easy bruising

→ Stretch marks

→ Weakness in the muscles

→ Bone loss

→ High blood pressure

→ Diabetes

→ Mood changes, such as depression or irritability

→ In women, irregular or absent menstrual cycles

Diagnosis often involves urine tests, blood tests, salivary tests, and imaging exams. Treatment depends on the cause but might include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or reducing the dosage of glucocorticoid medications.

What does it mean if your CORTISOL, SALIVA SAMPLE 3 result is too high?

If your late-night cortisol levels are elevated, it could suggest an abnormality in your cortisol secretion pattern. Here are some potential implications and causes:

→ Cushing's Syndrome: Elevated late-night cortisol levels, especially when confirmed through repeated testing, can be indicative of Cushing's syndrome, a condition resulting from prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels. Cushing's syndrome can arise from various causes, including tumors producing ACTH or direct cortisol-secreting tumors in the adrenal glands.

→ Stress: Physical or emotional stress can lead to transient increases in cortisol levels. It's important to differentiate between chronic pathological elevation and temporary spikes due to stressors.

→ Medications: Some drugs can elevate cortisol levels, including glucocorticoid medications, which are often prescribed for inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases, and other disorders.

→ Other medical conditions: Conditions like depression, obesity, chronic alcoholism, and poorly controlled diabetes mellitus can sometimes be associated with elevated cortisol levels.

→ Technical or procedural issues: It's worth noting that not all elevated readings are indicative of an underlying health issue. For example, improper collection timing, contamination of the saliva sample, or lab errors could produce anomalous results.

→ Sleep disorders: Disorders like sleep apnea or other sleep disturbances can impact cortisol rhythms and lead to elevated night-time levels.

→ Physical activity late at night: Engaging in vigorous physical activity shortly before taking a salivary sample could potentially elevate cortisol readings.

If late-night cortisol levels are found to be elevated, it's crucial to work with an endocrinologist or another appropriate medical specialist. They will help interpret the results in the context of clinical symptoms and possibly recommend further diagnostic tests to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

Frequently asked questions

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While we do talk about popular labs, we welcome reports from lots of other places too. It's as simple as this: if you can get a test done, you can upload it to Healthmatters. We can interpret results from any lab out there. If laboratories can analyze it, we can interpret it.

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Our special data entry service makes it easy to add your results to your private dashboard. Just attach an image or a file of your lab test results, and our skilled data entry team will do the work for you. It's all done by humans, ensuring that your data is entered accurately and with personal care for each client.

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