The adrenal cortex is responsible for the production of the hormone cortisol. The production of this hormone is stimulated by adrenal cortical stimulating hormone. The pituitary gland is responsible for the secreting of adrenal cortical stimulating hormone. Cortisol is a hormone that has several roles in the body. This hormone regulates the blood pressure and has the role to regulate the level of the sugar in the blood along with insulin. Furthermore, cortisol assists the body’s immune system by fighting against the foreign bodies that enter the body.
The main factor that causes the release of this hormone is stress. When the body is under stress for a long time, it leads to the occurrence of hypercortisolism, which is the term for the high levels of cortisol. When the level of cortisol is slightly increased, it does not cause any serious or major problems to the health of the person. However, hypercortisolism may impair the immune system and it can cause infertility or lead to the development of Cushing’s syndrome.
Causes of high cortisol levels
As already mentioned above, the main cause for the occurrence of high levels of cortisol is prolonged stress. Another reason responsible for the occurrence of hypercortisolism is hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid gland. Furthermore, adrenal tumor and cancer, pituitary malfunction because of a tumor or adenoma, as well as pregnancy and increased physical activities, are some of the potential causes for the incidence of high cortisol levels. This condition may also be caused by consummation of certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory steroid drugs and contraceptive pills.
Symptoms of high cortisol levels
The symptoms of elevated cortisol level usually appear gradually over time. Since this condition impairs the functioning of many organs in the body, as well as the immune system, the main symptoms of high cortisol levels are frequent infections, ulcers, high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels of hyperglycemia. The people who suffer from hypercortisolism may also experience weight gain in particular body parts, such as abdomen and trunk, while the limbs usually stay slender. Due to obesity, the people with this condition are at high risk to develop heart disease, such as stroke, heart attack and high LDL or bad cholesterol level.
Hypercortisolism may also cause several skin disorders, such as the appearance of acne on face, or purple colored stretch marks on the stomach, thighs and breasts. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, muscle weakness and bone weakens are also some of the symptoms of high cortisol levels. Infertility, irregular menstruation and the growth of facial and body hair are also the symptoms of hypercortisolism in women.