Cortisol Deficiency

Cortisol Deficiency Symptoms And Severity

A cortisol deficiency is something we don't too often hear about. Its symptoms initially are similar to the symptoms of numerous other disorders, so the deficiency itself may be masked for a lengthy period of time. What then is cortisol and why is it, or a deficiency in it, so important? Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are located just above the kidneys. This hormone is essential for our body's ability to deal with physical stress, and without it, a stressful situation, such as an accident or surgery, could result in collapse, and even death. On a longer term basis, a cortisol deficiency leads to a condition known as hypoadrenalism, sometimes called adrenaline fatigue. A person suffering from hypoadrenalism may lead a reasonably normal life, not being aware of the condition, but experiencing sometimes chronic fatigue or weakness, often accompanied by weight loss. Though not appearing to be a serious condition, if significant physical stress occurs, such as the onset of an infection, the condition could suddenly become very serious indeed, with the body possibly being unable to cope.

Addison's Disease - Hypoadrenalism due to a cortisol deficiency is also known as Addison's disease. The onset of symptoms is gradual and the symptoms themselves can be rather vague, with tiredness, stomach disorders, and aches and pains the most commonly felt. Addison's patients sometimes exhibit a permanent tan, or a longer than normal lasting tan as the condition stimulates the skin's pigment cells. Scars also tend to become pigmented. A cortisol deficiency can also cause lower than normal blood pressure (hypotension), which if allowed to become extreme, places the patient in danger of collapse.

A suspected cortisol deficiency can usually be confirmed with a blood test. If a patient has certain other illnesses, the cortisol levels will often be lower than normal, but if the condition is one of hypoadrenalism, or Addison's disease, the levels will be much, much lower than normal. Once the condition has been diagnosed by the family doctor or a general practitioner, the patient is very often referred to an endocrine specialist for treatment.

Hydrocortisone – The Standard Treatment - The standard treatment for a cortisol deficiency is a hydrocortisone replacement, usually taken in pill form. This is a life-long treatment, as the patient will always be in need of the hydrocortisone replacement, and if treatment is allowed to cease, the consequences could be fatal. The patient becomes dependent on the replacement for his or her well being. The proper dosage is generally easy to determine, as cortisol levels are measured by a series of blood tests until the proper dosage regimen is established.

Prednisone Can Cause Problems - Another cause of cortisol deficiency can be the treatment of arthritis and asthma conditions, where the medication of choice is often Prednisone, a corticosteroid. Prednisone generally is only used for short periods of time, as otherwise sometimes serious side effects can develop. One of the more common situations is, after Prednisone has been in use for a certain time, the adrenal glands stop producing cortisol. If the used of Prednisone is stopped abruptly, the body is suddenly faced with an acute cortisol deficiency. The used of Prednisone must be stopped gradually, allowing the functioning of the adrenal glands to return to normal.

There are other serious symptoms arising from a cortisol deficiency, but most of these are quite rare, and many result as a side effect from particular disease or disorder. If one has this deficiency, the greatest danger is an occurrence of significant physical stress on the body, where the body's systems may be unable to cope. There are homeopathic treatments and home remedies, most of which stress a balanced lifestyle and healthy nutrition. If the deficiency has been properly diagnosed however, medical treatment should be sought, and the appropriate medications taken.