Cortisol deficiency is a condition in which the body affected does not have an adequate amount of hormone released by the adrenal gland called cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid produced by the adrenal gland that is necessary for the normal development of body functions.
Mainly, cortisol regulates blood pressure and controls blood sugar levels or levels of glucose throughout the body. To do this, it tries to produce additional quantities of glucose, supporting metabolizing fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Also, cortisol helps the body fight disease and is essential in the healing process. The adrenal gland releases cortisol in greater amounts during times of stress or when the homeostatic balance of the body is affected by an infection.
Deficiency of cortisol is actually the result of a condition called adrenal insufficiency as cortisol deficiency almost always derives from the inability of the adrenal gland to produce hormones necessary for the proper functioning of the body.
– Addison’s disease . Cortisol deficiency has many possible causes. One is Addison’s disease, also known as chronic adrenal failure. This condition occurs when the adrenal glands do not work properly.
Release of insufficient cortisol due to adrenal dysfunction is most often caused by damage present in them. Injuries can be caused by the immune system that attacks the adrenal glands for unknown reasons. Addison’s disease is considered an autoimmune disorder characterized by the fact that the immune system produces antibodies that attack the cortex or outer layer of the adrenal glands, instead of attacking viruses and bacteria in the body.
– Secondary hypoadrenalism. Another cause of cortisol deficiency is secondary hypoadrenalism. The condition is caused by the inability of the pituitary gland to produce enough adenocorticotrop hormones. Lack of adenocorticotrop can cause improper functioning of the adrenal glands because one of the primary tasks is to signal the adrenal glands to release cortisol. This condition can be caused by diseases of the pituitary gland.
– Use of steroids. The use of steroids, either as a treatment or as a boost to improve athletic performance or anti-aging treatment may also affect the secretion of adrenal hormones. When these external hormones (steroids), reach the bloodstream, the adrenal gland falsely believe that the body has enough hormones. The consequence is stopping its own production of hormones, including cortisol.
When the body suffers from deficiency of cortisol many of its key functions are significantly affected, which can cause serious illness and even death.
– Changes in blood pressure or heart rate. Because cortisol helps regulate blood pressure, cortisol deficiency can cause changes in the blood pressure or heart rate. According to experts, insufficient cortisol causes a condition known as acute adrenal deficiency, which causes most of the times accelerate heart rate, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue.
In severe cases, acute cortisol deficiency can cause loss of consciousness or coma. If you experience high blood pressure, changes in heart rate or breathing problems, seek emergency medical help.
– Chronic diarrhea. Recurrent episodes of frequent loose stools may be symptoms of cortisol deficiency. According to experts, people with Addison’s disease experiencing cortisol deficiency are often treated with drugs that are designed to effectively restore hormone levels in the body. Chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration. To remedy or prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids, including drinks containing electrolytes. To get the best results, check with your doctor to determine which the best treatment against diarrhea is if you have a cortisol deficiency.
– Hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is a symptom common in people with cortisol deficiency. According to experts, adults and children with cortisol deficiency tend to have low blood sugar. They need careful monitoring of the blood sugar levels and the amount of glucose supplementation.
If you or your child suffers from cortisol deficiency, talk to your doctor about monitoring your blood sugar, prevention and treatment of medical problems related to low blood sugar values. Manifestations of hypoglycemia include constant hunger, dizziness, tremors, anxiety and confusion. Once the cortisol levels are back to normal, hypo symptoms tend to disappear.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Cortisol deficiency is easily diagnosed with a simple blood test through which you can check the cortisol and other adrenal hormones in the body.
Treatment is usually composed of two stages. First it will address the deficit, especially if it is caused by the use of steroid drugs. After that, cortisol replacement therapy will be inducted, which is mainly based on the administration of hydrocortisone.
However, if a person gets very stressed, cortisol production may drop even further, and this could endanger that person’s life. Under these conditions, the dose of hydrocortisone should be increased. Treatment may involve:
• increasing the dose of oral hydrocortisone
• administration by injection of a higher dose of hydrocortisone.