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Cortisol Tests...

From: http://www.healthcentral.com/mhc/top/003703.cfm

A test that measures the amount of cortisol in urine.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone released from the adrenal cortex in response to ACTH. Normally, cortisol levels rise and fall during the day (that is, diurnal variation); highest levels are at about 6 to 8 A.M. and lowest levels occur at about midnight.

Cortisol levels increase between meals, and increase the release of amino acids from skeletal muscle and fatty acids from adipose tissue. The amino acids are absorbed by the liver and converted to glucose, which is subsequently secreted into the blood to be used for energy by certain tissues such as brain cells and red blood cells. The fatty acids released from the adipose tissue are used for energy by skeletal muscle, thus sparing the available glucose for use by the brain.

Cortisol (or other glucocorticoids) in pharmacological doses reduces inflammation and inhibits the immune response. Even at physiological concentrations, cortisol probably has an effect on the immune system and the inflammatory response, especially in people subject to chronic stress. This is because stress, in general, stimulates an increased release of ACTH and secondarily releases cortisol, so that cortisol levels are chronically elevated.

Normally, cortisol and ACTH reciprocally regulate each other's concentration in the blood, that is, cortisol levels decrease, which causes an increase in ACTH secretion, which causes an increase in cortisol synthesis, which inhibits the release of ACTH. Diseases of the pituitary and adrenal glands upset this relationship.

Some fraction of plasma cortisol is also metabolized by the liver and other tissues to inactive products such as 17-OHCS, which are excreted by the body in the urine. Some free cortisol also appears in urine, which is proportional to the concentration in the blood. Urine measurements may be more reliable than serum since the amount accumulates over time and the variability of secretion can be averaged out.

How the test is performed:
A 24-hour urine sample is needed.
The health care provider will instruct you, if necessary, to discontinue drugs that may interfere with the test.

On day 1, urinate into the toilet upon arising in the morning.

Collect all subsequent urine (in a special container) for the next
24-hours.
On day 2, urinate into the container in the morning upon arising.
Cap the container.
Keep it in the refrigerator or a cool place during the collection period.
Label the container with your name, the date, the time of completion, and return it as instructed.

Infant:

Thoroughly wash the area around the urethra.
Open a urine collection bag (a plastic bag with an adhesive paper on one end), and place it on your infant.
For males, the entire penis can be placed in the bag and the adhesive attached to the skin.
For females, the bag is placed over the labia.
Place a diaper over the infant (bag and all).
The infant should be checked frequently and the bag changed after the infant has urinated into the bag.
For active infants, this procedure may take a couple of attempts--lively infants can displace the bag, causing an inability to obtain the specimen. The urine is drained into the container for transport to the laboratory.

Deliver it to the laboratory or your health care provider as soon as possible upon completion.

How to prepare for the test:
No special preparation is necessary for this test, but if the collection is being
taken from an infant, a couple of extra collection bags may be necessary.

Inform the health care provider of any medications that may affect this test (see "Special considerations").

How the test will feel:
The test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.

What the risks are:
There are no risks.

Why the test is performed:
The test is used to evaluate adrenocortical function.

Normal values:
The normal range is 10 to 100 mcg/24 h.

Note: mcg/24 h = micrograms per 24-hours

What abnormal results mean:
Increased levels of urine cortisol may indicate:
ACTH-secreting tumor
Cushing's syndrome
pituitary tumor
Decreased levels of urine cortisol may indicate:
Addison's disease
hypopituitarism
congenital adrenal hyperplasia
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

Cushing's syndrome caused by adrenal tumor
pregnancy (increases urinary cortisol)

Cost:
The estimated cost is $42.

Special considerations:
Interfering factors:

severe emotional or physical stress drugs that can affect test measurements include oral contraceptives and spironolactone.



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