zig
0

Notifications

  • You're all caught up!

Blood Tests for Adrenal Gland Function

by
author image Adam Cloe
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Blood Tests for Adrenal Gland Function
Blood test with lab request sheet Photo Credit topnotch100/iStock/Getty Images

The adrenal gland makes many different hormones and is divided into two distinct zones: the medulla and the cortex. The medulla makes hormones called catecholamines, such as adrenaline. The cortex primarily makes the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Diseases of the adrenal gland can often be diagnosed with blood tests that measure the levels of these different hormones, although most adrenal gland disorders affect only the adrenal cortex.

Cortisol

Blood cortisol is one of the basic tests used to assess adrenal gland function. Cortisol levels rise and fall throughout the day, so a single blood sample may not be effective at diagnosing a deficiency or overproduction. As a result, multiple samples may be taken. Cortisol levels can also be measured before or after stimulation of the adrenal gland to get a better sense of adrenal function.

Adrenocorticotropin Hormone

Adrenocorticotropin hormone, or ACTH, is a hormone made by the pituitary gland that stimulates the adrenal glands to make cortisol. As a result, it can be measured to assess adrenal function. If the adrenal glands are not working effectively, the pituitary secretes more ACTH to stimulate them to make more cortisol. As a result, people with poorly functioning adrenal glands typically have elevated ACTH levels.

Adrenal Stimulation Test

Another way to more accurately measure adrenal gland function is to measure cortisol levels before and after stimulation of the adrenal glands. For this test, the cortisol level is measured and then the patient is injected with a synthetic form of ACTH called cosyntropin. After 45 minutes, the blood cortisol level is measured again to see if the adrenal glands produced more cortisol in response to the cosyntropin. Failure of the blood cortisol levels to rise suggests adrenal gland malfunction.

Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone

The corticotropin-releasing hormone test can also be used to test adrenal gland function. First, baseline levels of ACTH and cortisol are measured. Then, corticotropin-releasing hormone -- a chemical that stimulates the release of ACTH -- is injected. Cortisol and ACTH levels are measured every 15 minutes. Typically, ACTH levels peak after 15 to 30 minutes, and cortisol levels peak 30 to 40 minutes after the injection of corticotropin-releasing hormone. Failure of cortisol levels to rise after an increase in ACTH suggests adrenal failure.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
GOAL
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
GENDER
  • Female
  • Male
lbs.
ft. in.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

CURRENTLY TRENDING

Demand Media

Our Privacy Policy has been updated. Please take a moment and read it here.