Home Endocrine system High Cortisol: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

High Cortisol: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Having high cortisol is medically known as hypercortisolism or Cushing’s syndrome. Although it is not a very common disease, its appearance may be due to the excessive consumption of corticosteroid medications. Generally, those who suffer from this disease tend to be overweight since the lack of control of this hormone favors fat concentration, especially in the middle part of the body. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It is responsible for storing and using the energy provided to the body and controlling other processes such as blood pressure levels and body stress. In this FastlyHealarticle, we explain everything related to high cortisol: symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is cortisol for?

We all need cortisol. The problem is the amount in which this hormone is released. The hypothalamus sends warning signals to the nerves and hormones when you are under stress. These are automatically activated to be removed and send large amounts of energy to the muscles. Cortisol in the right amount is used to :

  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • It controls the effect of insulin to maintain an adequate level of sugar in the blood.
  • Regulates the immune system.
  • It allows you to control stress and respond to it.
  • It uses sugar and fat as a source of energy for the body and stores it for prolonged fasting moments.

Causes of high blood cortisol

Excess cortisol in the blood can be the consequence of various reasons. Here are the causes of high cortisol:

  • Stress: cortisol is the stress hormone produced in our body as a defense mechanism to help it react in times of physical or emotional tension. When it happens, the functions of this hormone are blocked, causing it to be secreted excessively.
  • Use of corticosteroid medications: prolonged use of oral or injectable corticosteroid drugs in high doses can lead to exogenous Cushing’s syndrome, that is, high cortisol levels in the blood due to an external cause. These types of drugs mimic the action of cortisol in the body and are often prescribed to treat some diseases such as cancer, asthma, joint pain, arthritis, or intestinal disease.
  • A pituitary adenoma is a benign tumor in the pituitary gland that causes an overproduction of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), a hormone secreted from the pituitary in the brain and regulated the production of cortisol. This, at the same time, causes a higher production of cortisol. This is the most common cause of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome, which is when high cortisol levels in the blood result from excessive production of the body itself.
  • Adrenal gland problems: Some adrenal gland disorders, such as adrenal adenoma (non-cancerous tumor) or adrenocortical carcinomas (cancerous tumors), can cause excess cortisol.
  • Ectopic tumor: Although it is not very common, sometimes a tumor present in other parts of the body, such as the pancreas, thyroid, lungs, or thymus, can cause the hormone ACTH to be secreted excessively and, therefore, to produce the Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Hereditary factors: it is possible that in some cases, people inherit the tendency to develop a tumor in the endocrine glands, which would end up raising the levels of cortisol in the blood.

High cortisol symptoms

Depending on the level of excess cortisol in the blood, the patient will present one symptom or another. Here are the most common physical and psychological symptoms of high cortisol :

Physical symptoms

  • Weight and fat gain, especially around the abdominal area, shoulders and face.
  • The appearance of purple or red stretch marks on breasts, abdomen, thighs, and arms.
  • Propensity to bruise.
  • Acne.
  • Wounds that heal slowly.
  • Hirsutism: excessive hair growth in women.
  • Irregular menstruation or absence thereof.
  • Constant tiredness
  • High tension.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Headaches.
  • Back pain.
  • Loss of bone mass.
  • Growing problems.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Decreased fertility.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides.

Psychological symptoms

  • Constant sensitivity, even if there are no reasons.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Mild depression
  • Feelings of anger
  • Low libido

It is necessary to emphasize that these symptoms are also part of other medical conditions, so you should go to an endocrinologist so that he can determine if you are experiencing an elevation in cortisol.

Treatment for high cortisol

Treatment for high cortisol will be determined by what caused the increase. Therefore, it can cover the following:

  • If the use of corticosteroids causes it: the dose of the drug in question is progressively reduced over some time, and, at the same time, the patient is given adequate treatment to control the symptoms of arthritis, asthma, or any other disease you suffer from.
  • Surgery: the specialist may order surgery to remove the tumor causing the high blood cortisol. After the operation, the patient will likely need to take medications that provide the body with the proper amount of cortisol.
  • Radiation therapy: The patient will start radiation therapy treatment in some cases where the tumor cannot be removed entirely. It is also an option for those who cannot undergo surgery.
  • Medications: to control cortisol production, in some cases, the medical specialist may recommend taking medications before or after surgery. These drugs include mitotane, metyrapone, and ketoconazole.

Natural treatment for high cortisol

In addition to the above, to lower high blood cortisol naturally and improve quality of life, it is essential to carry out measures such as the following:

  • Sleep 8 hours a day and enjoy a good night’s sleep. To combat insomnia before sleeping, you can take a relaxing infusion, such as linden, valerian, or chamomile. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet space, and its temperature is warm, neither too cold nor too hot.
  • Control the consumption of sweets: any simple carbohydrate and processed foods increase blood sugar levels. Eat a diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, good fats, and lots of vegetables.
  • Eliminate caffeine and alcohol: these drinks alter our nervous system, so excessive consumption raises cortisol levels. Instead, stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Exercise: This will help you reduce stress, the leading cause of high cortisol, and allow you to feel better and burn body fat.
  • Include omega 3 in the diet: This nutrient has properties that help reduce stress-related high cortisol levels. Eat foods like oily fish, egg yolks, vegetable oils, and seeds.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: some recommendations are meditation, yoga, and, if you want to exercise a little more, Pilates is an excellent option to connect mind and body.

This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to High Cortisol: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment, we recommend that you enter our Endocrine System category.

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