Telltale signs you may have high cortisol

Telltale signs you may have high cortisol

Like many other beneficial substances your body naturally produces, cortisol is essential to your health – at the right levels. Called the stress hormone, cortisol gives us the energy to fight stress, such as a fever, illness, injury or a dangerous situation (the fight-or-flight response). It also helps us convert sugar, fat and protein into energy.

But when you have too much cortisol, a condition called Cushing syndrome, it can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, bone problems and even behavior changes.

High cortisol levels can happen in a couple of different ways. Your body can make too much of the hormone due to adrenal or pituitary gland issues or prolonged stress. Taking large amounts of corticosteroid medication, which often is used to treat asthma, allergies, arthritis and other conditions, can also up the level.

How do you know if you have high cortisol?

“Most cases of Cushing syndrome happen in adults 25 to 40 years old, and more often in women than in men,” says Dr. Erik Jeanes, an endocrinologist at Aurora Health Care. “While signs can take months to develop, some are fairly distinctive.”

Symptoms include:
  • Rounded or flushed face
  • Buffalo hump, a fatty hump between the shoulders and neck
  • Red or purple stretch marks
  • Thin skin that bruises easily
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Muscle weakness and tiredness
  • In women: thicker, more noticeable facial hair or irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • In men: erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive or fertility

“The earlier we can diagnose and provide treatment for Cushing syndrome, the better your recovery and outcome can be,” Dr. Jeanes says. “Treatment, such as medication to block hormone production or changing your corticosteroid prescription, can return your body’s cortisol levels to normal and improve your symptoms.”

Always talk to your doctor first before making any changes to your medications. Find a physician that’s right for you in Illinois or Wisconsin, or do a virtual visit from home.

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  1. How does Cushing Syndrome get diagnosed?

  2. Can cortisol levels be detected and or measured through blood work?

  3. Susan ulatowski May 14, 2024 at 1:55 pm · Reply

    I would like to know answers to questions also, how is it diagnosed and is it detected through blood work?

  4. how does this get diagnosed, is there tests that can be done?

  5. Felicia Montresarchio May 16, 2024 at 5:17 pm · Reply

    Sounds like when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POS) way back in the 80’s

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About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.