Hormones play an integral role in body developing and metabolism. One such hormone cortisol is known to regulate a wide range of processes in the body. It controls the immune response and metabolism. Thus, help in monitoring the stress.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone. Its formation takes place in the cortex of the adrenal glands. From here, it goes into the bloodstream and then to all parts of the body via blood. Almost all the cells of the body contain receptors for cortisol, and it triggers different actions based on the type of cell receptors it bonds.

Functions of Cortisol-

Cortisol is known to be responsible for the following functions:

1. Controls the blood sugar level
2. Helps in metabolism
3. Anti-inflammatory
4. Controlling salt and water balance
5. Regulating blood pressure
6. Foetus development
7. Memory formation

This hormone fetus also produced by rodents, reptiles, and birds and is known as corticosterone.

Cortisol Level-

An important point to note about cortisol is that its level is higher in the morning and tends to fall as the day ends. This is called a diurnal rhythm.

Three regions of the body control the production of cortisol:

1. Hypothalamus in the brain
2. Pituitary Gland
3. Adrenal Gland

These three are also known as the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.

When the level of cortisol is low, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone. This hormone causes the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone, into the bloodstream. High levels of the latter are detected by adrenal glands, and they secrete cortisol in response to this rising level.

Deficiency of Cortisol-

As mentioned above cortisol plays a crucial role in marinating the metabolism, blood pressure, and other processes in the body. Its decreasing levels can be alarming. Cortisol deficiency leads to Addison's disease. It’s a rare endocrine disorder which can affect men and women equally. It can occur to people of all the age group.

Symptoms of this disease:

1. Loss of weight
2. Low blood pressure
3. Fatigue
4. Muscle weakness
5. Skin darkening

The disease starts appearing when the adrenal glands are not able to produce enough cortisol.

Probable Causes-

As mentioned above, one of the major reasons for the inadequate level of cortisol could be adrenal insufficiency. The failure of adrenal glands to produce cortisol leads toe Primary Adrenal Insufficiency. And when the pituitary glands produce insufficient adrenocorticotrophic hormone, it leads to Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency.

Primary adrenal Insufficiency- As mentioned above, the primary industry occurs with the failure of adrenal glands to produce cortisol. This usually occurs with body attacking itself. Your immune system will see adrenal cortex as alien and will attack or try to destroy it. People having Addison disease are more likely to have an autoimmune disease.

Common causes for failure of adrenal glans:

• TB
• Infection of the adrenal gland
• Spread of cancer to the adrenal gland
• Bleeding into the adrenal glands

Secondary adrenal Insufficiency- This occurs when the Pituitary gland fails to produce an adrenocorticotrophic hormone or ACTH. This hormone stimulates adrenal gland to produce cortisol. The symptom of secondary adrenal insufficiency is similar to the primary one, but the only difference between the two is that the hyperpigmentation or darkening of skin which is a common symptom in the primary adrenal insufficiency. Hyperpigmentation is not visible in the secondary adrenal insufficiency. The secondary adrenal door over has a lower level of dehydration and low BP. In such cases, the patients tend to have a low blood sugar level.

When does this low cortisol level become a matter of concern?

Low level of cortisol, affects many metabolic processes of the body. Some of these have visible symptoms while others show the effect in the later stages. Here are some of the symptoms to look for, if you observe these conditions, its always advisable to take doctor’s advice.

1. Hyperpigmentation
2. Unusual weight loss
3. Severe fatigue’
4. Sudden salt cravings
5. Fainting
6. Darkening areas of skin (hyperpigmentation)
7. Gastrointestinal problems, like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
8. Muscle or joint pains

Final Thoughts – Well having a regulated level of hormone is a must for the proper functioning of the body. It is also mandatory to keep a check on the hormone level; you can get more such important information from various health portals like verisana.com. An important point to note here is that cortisol is responsible for various functions in the body if you observe any difference in the normal functioning of the body, its best to consult a doctor.

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