Total Cortisol Test

This test measures the level of cortisol in the blood.

This test measures the level of cortisol in the blood.

This test measures the level of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol is a hormone made by the adrenal glands, which helps control many key processes in the body. For example abnormal cortisol levels may affect:

  • Blood pressure
  • The immune system
  • The levels of certain chemicals in the body, such as glucose

The level of cortisol in the blood generally peaks in the morning and falls to its lowest point around midnight. Cortisol levels can be affected by:

  • Heat and cold
  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Exercise
  • Obesity
  • Illness
  • Pregnancy
  • Physical and emotional stress
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Certain medications

Your healthcare provider may order a cortisol test if you have symptoms of an abnormal level of cortisol in your blood. A high level of cortisol (Cushing syndrome) can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Obesity, especially in the central areas of the body, such as the trunk
  • Fragile skin
  • Muscle wasting and weakness
  • Osteoporosis

A low level of cortisol (Addison disease) can cause:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark patches of skin

Cortisol testing may also be recommended if a woman has irregular menstrual periods and increased facial hair or a child has delayed development and short stature.

In an adult, the blood sample is taken by placing a needle in a vein in the arm. In some cases, urine and/or saliva are tested.

  • Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking. Some can interfere with the test.
  • Do not stop taking any medication unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so.
  • You will be told how to prepare for this test to help ensure accurate results.

This care path's costs do not include the charge to draw blood from a vein (venipuncture). There will only be one charge to draw blood, even if multiple tests are being performed on the samples that are taken.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having this test?

  • Is there any special preparation for the test? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • What is the reason for the test? Will the test results change my treatment plan? If not, do I need the test?
  • If the test results are abnormal, what other tests will I need?


Also known as:

Total Cortisol Test
Laboratory Work
ACTH Stimulation Test
Dexamethasone Suppression Test DST
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