Serum CortisolDr Pravallika KLast Updated on 21st March 2022
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What is the Serum Cortisol test used for?
A serum cortisol test is advised to patients suspected of having abnormal cortisol levels and exhibiting obesity, infection, weakness, and blood pressure-related symptoms. This test is used to measure the blood serum level of cortisol hormone.
A cortisol test is indicated to detect mainly two disorders:
- Cushing’s syndrome, which is caused by high levels of cortisol
- Addison’s disease is caused by low levels of cortisol.
Other indications for this test include,
- Any pituitary gland or adrenal gland dysfunction
- A tumour associated with the adrenal gland or pituitary gland
- Tumours in other organs that are causing an excess release of cortisol in the body
What is included in the Serum Cortisol test?
A serum cortisol test includes measuring this cortisol hormone level in the serum of an individual’s blood. This test requires a blood sample from the individual. The blood is then centrifuged to separate the serum from the blood before being tested for cortisol hormone. Cortisol levels that rise or fall may indicate the presence of disease in the adrenal gland. If more tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may recommend them. A certified lab technician performs this test.
Procedure for Serum Cortisol test
- This test requires a blood sample, usually collected from the vein. It should only take a few minutes to collect the sample.
- A topical antiseptic is applied to the inside of your elbow to clean a small area of your skin. An elastic band is then wrapped around your upper arm to apply pressure to find a vein.
- Once a vein is seen, a sterile needle is inserted to draw blood into a small tube.
- When the needle is inserted, you may feel a sting; however, the pain will immediately dissipate.
- After that, a small bandage will be applied at the procedure site.
- The sample is labelled and sent to our accredited labs of your choice (made during the booking) for further processing.
- With the help of state-of-the-art technology, the blood sample will be analyzed by the lab technician.
- Once the analysis is completed, the blood test results will be available on the MFine app within 24-48 hours.
How to prepare for a serum cortisol test?
The cortisol blood test is a simple blood test that does not necessitate any special preparations or fasting before the test.
- This test requires a blood sample to determine your cortisol level. A sample can be collected according to a patient’s convenience, either from home or in the test centre.
- Before the test, you may be asked not to do any strenuous exercise for at least a day.
- Before the test, tell the doctor about any medications you’re taking.
- You may be asked to temporarily discontinue taking medications that may interfere with the test, such as anti-seizure medications, corticosteroids, estrogen, androgen medications, vitamin or herbal supplements.
- Before the blood test, you may be asked to lie down and relax for 30 minutes.
- It is best to follow the precautionary measures prescribed by the doctor.
Through the MFine app, you can now book cortisol tests from certified lab partners in your city.
Things to consider after the serum cortisol test is complete
Once the test results are available, a general physician or endocrinologist in your city will review the cortisol blood test reports and discuss the diagnosis. They will recommend and guide you through treatment and any subsequent follow-ups if the levels are abnormal. Please do not attempt to self-diagnose your medical condition.
What types of disorders can the serum cortisol test detect?
A cortisol test is recommended to detect mainly two disorders: Cushing’s syndrome, which is caused by high levels of cortisol, and Addison’s disease, which is caused by low levels of cortisol.
- Cushing’s syndrome: High cortisol levels cause Cushing’s syndrome. Cortisol levels normally rise during times of stress, but not to the extent seen in Cushing’s disease. Increased cortisol causes bone, skin, and muscle destruction and an increase in blood pressure. A decrease in collagen synthesis causes skin striae. In addition, it causes an increase in appetite, insulin resistance, and gluconeogenesis.
- Addison’s disease: Addison’s disease is associated with decreased levels of cortisol. Weight loss, fatigue, muscle weakness, abdominal pain, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are some symptoms.
Other conditions where abnormal cortisol levels can be found include:
- Acute adrenal crisis is a potentially fatal condition when cortisol levels fall dangerously low.
- Sepsis is a condition in which the body reacts aggressively to fight bacteria or other germs.
- Any pituitary gland or adrenal gland dysfunction.
- A tumour-associated with the adrenal gland or pituitary gland
- Tumour in other organs that is causing an excess release of cortisol in the body
How much does a serum cortisol test cost?
Through the MFine app, you can now book serum cortisol tests from certified lab partners in your city for home collection or centre visits.
Certified lab partners of MFine for a serum cortisol test
|Prima diagnostics||Starts at Rs. 900|
|5th vital labs||Starts at Rs. 564|
|Human health||Starts at Rs. 581|
|Aster lab||Starts at Rs. 550|
|Sakra premium clinic||Starts at Rs. 787|
|Orange health||Starts at Rs. 411|
|Nerf Blut||Starts at Rs. 715|
|Infinity healthcare and diagnostics||Starts at Rs. 553|
*Disclaimer: The value varies based on location, time, and your preferred lab partner.
How long does it take to get serum cortisol test results?
You can expect to get the results for the serum cortisol test within 24 to 48 hours after the sample is collected. However, in certain cases, depending on the location, medical advice, and preferred lab partner, it may take longer.
What do abnormal serum cortisol test results indicate?
The cortisol test timing is very important because cortisol levels vary throughout the day. The normal range of serum cortisol levels is between 5.0 to 25.0 mcg/dL. Cortisol levels are highest during the morning hours between 6 am to 10 am and gradually fall during the day, reaching their low in the evenings between 6 pm to 11 pm and the lowest point around midnight. This is the reason why a cortisol test is advised in the morning.
Sometimes two tests are advised, one at 8 am and the other at 4 pm. The treating doctor will advise when the cortisol levels need to be checked. The test results are read either as an increased level of cortisol hormone or a decreased level of cortisol hormone.
Cortisol levels that are higher than normal could mean that:
- A tumour or excessive growth of the pituitary gland is causing your pituitary gland to release too much ACTH.
- You have an adrenal gland tumour, which causes you to produce too much cortisol.
- You have a tumour in another part of your body that affects cortisol production.
Cortisol levels that are lower than normal could mean that:
- You have Addison’s disease, which occurs when your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol.
- Hypopituitarism is a condition in which your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol as a result of the pituitary gland not sending the proper signals.
It is advisable to consult with your doctor to interpret the test reports. They may recommend more tests if the test results show that cortisol levels in your blood are too high or too low.
Disclaimer: Please consult with your doctor to interpret the test reports.
Is serum cortisol a definitive test?
The cortisol test is used to detect abnormalities related to the adrenal or pituitary gland. It is not a definitive test. The timing and pattern of an increase or decrease in cortisol levels are important in making a diagnosis. Some factors can result in a false-positive screening test.
Elevated cortisol levels may not always suggest problems with the adrenal gland.
Factors that may be responsible for abnormal results include
- Physical stress,
- Birth control pills,
- Malnourished individuals,
- Intense chronic exercise.
An endocrinologist will be able to correlate test results with signs and symptoms and also may conduct additional testing to confirm or rule out the diagnosis. Therefore, you should visit your doctor to understand the issue and get diagnosed and treated at the earliest.
How to read the serum cortisol report?
The test results are given either as normal, elevated, or decreased. Normal values vary depending upon the time of collection of the sample. Certain medications and physical factors can also affect the test reports.
|Normal values for blood samples collected at||6 to 8 a.m.: 5 to 20 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL)
Around 4 p.m.: 3 to 10 mcg/dL
|Elevated level for the blood sample collected||6 to 8 am: More than 20mcg/dL|
|Decreased level for the blood sample collected||6 to 8am: Less than 3 mcg/dL|
Normal values vary slightly between laboratories. Some labs use different measurements. Speak with your doctor about the significance of your test results.
Why book a serum cortisol test?
When an individual is stressed or in danger, the pituitary gland in the brain produces a hormone known as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone sends a signal and causes the adrenal gland (located just above the kidneys) to release cortisol.
The cortisol released is used to temporarily halt functions that are not essential for the body, such as reproductive and immune growth processes. Shutting down some functions gives power to the individual to face stress. Cortisol release increases insulin resistance, raises blood sugar levels, and causes emotional experiences like fear and anger when needed.
Cortisol contributes to the proper operation of several systems in the human body, including
- Response to stress
- Body’s defence mechanism
- Nervous system
- Cardiovascular system
- Musculoskeletal system
- Metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Since it plays an important role in several functions of the body, an increase or decrease in cortisol can affect these body systems. A serum cortisol test is used
- To check for increased or decreased cortisol production.
- To diagnose adrenal gland or pituitary gland disorders.
- Follow-up tests to check how well an individual is responding to treatment.
- Screening of pituitary gland function
- Screening of adrenal gland function
- To diagnose Cushing’s syndrome
- Evaluation of Addison’s disease
Serum cortisol test at home – how does it work?
The serum cortisol test is just like any other blood test. A lab technician visits your home when you book your tests through the MFine app. The lab technician first cleans the arm and then inserts a needle attached to a syringe into a vein. The required amount of blood is then taken into a vacutainer. The lab technician then removes the needle and places cotton wool or a bandage over the prick.
Are there any risks involved with serum cortisol tests?
The serum cortisol blood test is a relatively safe procedure with minor side effects. Following are some possible side effects of the serum cortisol test:
- Minor bruises or soreness may form at the site of injection. By applying pressure to the affected area for several minutes, you can reduce the likelihood of bruising.
- The vein may swell after the blood sample is taken in rare cases. This condition is known as phlebitis. This can be treated with a warm compress over the affected area multiple times per day.
- Some people may experience dizziness, fainting, or infection at the puncture site.
What can affect the results of serum cortisol?
Cortisol levels fluctuate in response to various factors and show abnormal results. Some Illnesses, physical activity, and certain medications taken at the time of testing can impact the cortisol test’s accuracy. Some of the factors which alter the results include
- Individuals who work at night and sleep during the daytime.
- Physical Trauma
- Physical stress
- The third trimester of pregnancy
- Athletes undertaking rigorous training
- Alcohol consumption
- Oral contraceptives like estrogen
- Corticosteroid medications
- Androgen supplements
- Phenytoin medicines
Our Trusted Lab Partners for Serum Cortisol
For further assistance
Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs
Is the lab technician coming for serum cortisol sample collection vaccinated?
Yes. Our lab technicians are fully vaccinated. Further, they also ensure safety by wearing mask gloves and frequently sanitizing themselves during the sample collection.
Does MFine provide the interpretation for the results along with the reports?
Yes, MFine provides the interpretation for the result and the reports. You can also avail a free medical consultation with a doctor to understand your reports accurately. The doctor will also advise and prescribe medicines, if required, based on the results.
How can I download my serum cortisol test report?
- Login to MFine.
- Go to your profile.
- Click on Attachment and Reports.
- Click on Lab Report.
- Download the report.
Are there any discount offers running on the serum cortisol test?
Usually, you can avail yourself up to a 50% discount on serum cortisol through MFine. However, the discount and test price may vary based on lab partner and location.
Does the cortisol hormone have an impact on sleep?
Yes! High levels of cortisol can reduce the quality and duration of sleep.
Are low levels of serum cortisol worrisome?
Yes! Very low cortisol levels can lead to a medical emergency known as an adrenal crisis. This can be prevented by detecting and treating the hormone level at the earliest.
Is fatigue related to the cortisol hormone?
High or low levels of cortisol hormone can cause fatigue and other symptoms. Other hormonal disturbances like thyroid can also cause tiredness. Fatigue can have multiple causes. Please consult your doctor for accurate diagnosis and timely treatment. Men and women of all ages can get this screening test done to check their cortisol levels!
Any additional tests are required?
Apart from blood serum, cortisol is also secreted in urine and saliva. So, in addition to the serum cortisol test, the doctor may also advise checking cortisol levels in urine and saliva. Cortisol in urine is measured using a cortisol 24-hour urine test, and cortisol in the saliva is measured using a salivary swab collection. Routine blood tests and other hormonal level tests may be required, which can assist in determining the cause of an abnormal serum cortisol level. In addition, a CT or MRI scan may be advised by your doctor to detect any abnormal growths in the body.
What are the signs and symptoms of Addison's disease?
Signs and symptoms of Addison’s disease include
- Low blood sugar
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea, vomiting, fatigue
- Weight loss
- Vomiting, diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
What are the complications of untreated Cushing's syndrome?
Cushing syndrome may result in the following complications:
- Osteoporosis causes bone loss, leading to unusual bone fractures, such as rib fractures and foot fractures.
- Type 2 Diabetes mellitus
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Frequent Infections
- Decreased muscle mass and strength.
- Blood clots in legs and lungs
- Heart attack and stroke
Disclaimer: The content is uniquely informative and is meant for educational use. Kindly use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified or registered healthcare provider.