Home cortisol tests: 3 of the best

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Cortisol is a hormone with various functions throughout the body. However, if a person’s body cannot regulate their cortisol levels, it could lead to a serious health condition. In these cases, home cortisol tests may be useful to indicate when someone might need medical attention.

A person sitting at a desk, holding an at-home cortisol test tube, typing on a laptop.

This article discusses:

  • what cortisol is
  • what a home cortisol test is
  • why a person might buy a home cortisol test
  • some home cortisol tests to purchase online
  • when to see a doctor

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is the stress hormone that affects several systems in the body, including the:

The adrenal glands produce cortisol. Most human body cells have cortisol receptors, and the hormone can help in several ways, including:

  • reducing inflammation
  • regulating metabolism
  • assisting with memory formation
  • controlling blood pressure
  • developing the fetus during pregnancy
  • maintaining salt and water balance in the body
  • controlling blood sugar levels

All these functions make cortisol a vital part of maintaining overall health. If the body can no longer regulate cortisol levels, it can lead to several health disorders, such as Cushing’s syndrome and Addison’s disease. Without treatment, these conditions could cause life threatening complications.

The body requires certain cortisol levels during times of stress, such as:

  • in the event of an injury
  • during illness
  • during a surgical procedure

What are home cortisol tests? 

A cortisol test usually involves a blood test. However, some may require saliva and urine samples instead.

There are several home cortisol tests available to purchase over the counter or online. These allow a person to take a sample of blood, urine, or saliva before sending it off for analysis.

After taking a home cortisol test, people can usually receive their results within 2–5 days online or via a telephone call with a healthcare professional.

However, there are currently no studies investigating the reliability of these home cortisol tests. Therefore, people should follow up on their test results with a healthcare professional.

Why and when do people need them? 

A person should take a home cortisol test if they feel they may have a cortisol imbalance.

If cortisol levels are too high, a person may notice the following:

  • rapid weight gain in the face, chest, and abdomen
  • high blood pressure
  • osteoporosis
  • bruises and purple stretch marks
  • mood swings
  • muscle weakness
  • an increase in thirst and need to urinate

If cortisol levels are too low, a person may experience the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • unintentional weight loss
  • muscle weakness
  • abdominal pain

Additionally, low cortisol levels may lead to:

A test can help individuals check their cortisol levels. If the test results show these levels are too high or too low, people should seek medical advice.

A cortisol imbalance may be a sign of an underlying condition, which can lead to serious complications without treatment.

If a person cannot carry out a home cortisol test, they should speak to a medical professional who can arrange a cortisol test at a healthcare facility.

What to look for in a home cortisol test

At a clinic or hospital setting, a medical professional will usually take a blood sample and analyze it for an individual’s cortisol levels.

Home cortisol tests involve a person taking a sample of blood, urine, or saliva. There are currently no studies investigating the accuracy of these results.

However, home cortisol tests may be faster and more convenient than making an appointment with a doctor to take a sample.

People may consider several factors when deciding to purchase a home cortisol test, including:

  • Sample type: Some tests require a blood sample, while others need a sample of urine or saliva. With this in mind, a person may wish to buy a product that uses a testing method they are comfortable providing.
  • Test analysis: A person may wish to purchase a product from a company that sends tests to Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified labs for analysis. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulate these labs to help ensure safety and accuracy.
  • Accuracy: Individuals may wish to speak to a pharmacist or other healthcare professional before purchasing to ensure the test is reliable and accurate.

Products

Several online retailers offer home cortisol tests. It is important to follow all test instructions to ensure a valid result.

Please note, the writer has not tested these products. All information is research-based.

LetsGetChecked – Cortisol Test

This cortisol test uses the finger prick method to draw blood for the sample.

Here are the steps to take and send off a blood sample:

  1. Individuals fill in their details on the collection box and activate their testing kit online at the LetsGetChecked website.
  2. People need to wash their hands with warm soapy water before using an alcohol swab to clean the finger that they will prick.
  3. Once the finger is completely dry, individuals pierce the skin using the lancet in the test kit. A person must wipe away the first drop of blood before squeezing some into the blood collection tube.
  4. After closing the tube, individuals must invert it 5–10 times before placing it in the included biohazard bag, which they then place in the box.

After following these steps, people can send the sample back to LetsGetChecked using the kit’s prepaid envelope. Test results usually come back within 2–5 days.

LetsGetChecked tests samples in the same labs that primary care providers, hospitals, and government schemes use. These labs are CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited.

The company also has a team of nurses and doctors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to offer ongoing support. These healthcare professionals are on hand to discuss a person’s results with them over the phone.

Everlywell At-Home Cortisol Levels Test Kit – Sleep & Stress Test

This Everlywell product uses a urine sample to test a person’s cortisol levels.

The test measures the levels of three hormones in a person’s body: cortisol, cortisone, and melatonin. It also measures a person’s creatinine levels.

There are three steps with this test:

  1. Individuals register their testing kit on Everlywell’s website.
  2. A person follows the instructions carefully to take their urine sample.
  3. Once they have their urine sample, they place it in the prepaid package and send it off to Everlywell’s labs.

Within a few days, individuals will receive their results digitally via the Everlywell website. Medical professionals can also offer helpful insights via their secure platform.

As well as sending a personalized report of each marker, Everlywell also sends detailed information about what the results mean.

The labs where Everlywell tests samples all carry certification with CLIA. The company also ensures that all results are reviewed and certified by independent board-certified physicians within the person’s specific state.SHOP NOW

Healthlabs Cortisol, AM & PM Test

Healthlabs offers a cortisol test that tests a person’s cortisol levels twice — once in the morning and once in the evening.

The company says they do this because a person’s cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day. Therefore, by testing twice, they can gather information on this fluctuation.

This test uses a blood sample, which a person takes once in the morning and once in the afternoon. They must follow the instructions clearly to ensure they take suitable samples.

The manufacturer says that people should collect a morning sample between 7–9 a.m. and an evening sample between 3–5 p.m.

They then need to send off their sample for analysis. After testing is complete at a CLIA-certified lab, a person will receive their results, which usually takes between 1–2 days. SHOP NOW

When to speak with a doctor

A person should undergo a cortisol test if they believe they may have high or low cortisol levels.

They can do this at home or speak with a medical professional who can carry out the test for them.

People may also wish to seek medical help if they show signs of too much or too little cortisol. This could indicate a potentially serious underlying health issue.

Summary

Cortisol is an important hormone that affects almost all parts of the body. It has many functions, including reducing inflammation, regulating metabolism, and controlling blood pressure.

If a person believes they have high or low cortisol levels, they may wish to take a cortisol test. Usually, these tests take place at a medical practice. However, several home cortisol tests are available to purchase.

A person can take these tests at home by providing a urine, blood, or saliva sample. Once a lab analyzes the test, people usually receive their results within a few days. Individuals should follow up any test results with a healthcare professional. No clinics, no stress. Test your cortisol levels from home

Test your cortisol level from home with LetsGetChecked. Get free shipping, medical support, and results from accredited labs within 2–5 days. Order today for 30% off. LEARN MORE

Last medically reviewed on April 29, 2021 at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/3-of-the-best-home-cortisol-tests

How does COVID-19 impact the adrenal gland?

This month marks a little over one year since the first surge of COVID-19 across the United States. April is also Adrenal Insufficiency Awareness month, a good time to review the data on how COVID-19 infection can impact the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands make hormones to help regulate blood pressure and the ability to respond to stress. The hormones include steroids such as glucocorticoid (cortisol), mineralocorticoid (aldosterone), and forms of adrenaline known as catecholamines (norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine). The activity of the adrenal gland is controlled through its relationship with the pituitary gland (the master regulator of hormones in the body).

Some common adrenal diseases include the following:

  • Addison’s Disease (where the body attacks the adrenal glands making them dysfunctional)
  • Hyperaldosteronism
  • Cushing’s Syndrome
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Adrenal Nodules/Masses (termed incidentaloma)
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

COVID-19 was found in the adrenal and pituitary glands of some patients who succumbed to the illness, suggesting that these organs might be among the targets for infection.  One of the first highly effective therapies for COVID-19 infection was the use of IV steroid (dexamethasone) supplementation in hospitalized patients in patients requiring oxygen.

A focused search of COVID-19-related health literature shows 85 peer-reviewed papers that have been published in medical literature specifically on the adrenal gland and COVID-19. This literature focuses on three phases of COVID infection that may impact the adrenal gland: the acute active infection phase, the immediate post-infection phase, and the long-term recovery phase.

Medical research has identified that during the acute active infection, the adrenal system is one of the most heavily affected organ systems in the body in patients who have COVID-19 infection requiring hospitalization. In these cases, supplementation with the steroid dexamethasone serves as one of the most powerful lifesaving treatments.

Concern has also been raised regarding the period of time just after the acute infection phase – particularly, the development of adrenal insufficiency following cases of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Additionally, some professional societies recommend that for patients who have adrenal insufficiency and are on adrenal replacement therapy, they be monitored closely post-COVID-19 vaccine for the development of stress-induced adrenal insufficiency.

In mild-to-moderate COVID-19 cases, there does not seem to be an effect on adrenaline-related hormones (norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine). However, in cases of severe COVID-19 infection triggering the development of shock, patients will need supplementation with an infusion of catecholamines and a hormone called vasopressin to maintain their blood pressure.

Finally, some studies have addressed the concern of adrenal insufficiency during the long-term recovery phase. Dr Sara Bedrose, adrenal endocrine specialist at  Baylor College of Medicine, indicates that studies which included adrenal function in COVID survivors showed a large percentage of patients with suboptimal cortisol secretion during what is called ACTH stimulation testing.

Results indicated that most of those cases had central adrenal insufficiency. It was concluded that adrenal insufficiency might be among the long-term consequences of COVID-19 and it seemed to be secondary to pituitary gland inflammation (called hypophysitis) or due to direct hypothalamic damage. Long-term follow-up of COVID 19 survivors will be necessary to exclude a gradual and late-onset adrenal insufficiency.

Some patients who have COVID-19 will experience prolonged symptoms. To understand what is happening to them, patients may question whether or not they have a phenomenon called adrenal fatigue. This is a natural question to ask, especially after having such a severe health condition. A tremendous amount of resources are being developed to investigate the source and treatment of the symptoms, and this work has only just begun.

However, adrenal fatigue is not a real medical diagnosis. It’s a term to describe a group of signs and symptoms that arise due to underactive adrenal glands. Current scientific data indicate that adrenal fatigue is not in and of itself a medical disease – although a variety of over-the-counter supplements and compounded medications may be advocated for in treatment by alternative medicine/naturopathic practitioners.

My takeaway is that we have learned a great deal about the effects COVID-19 infection has on the adrenal glands. Long-term COVID-19 remains an area to be explored –  especially in regards to how it may affect the adrenal glands.

-By Dr. James Suliburk, associate professor of surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology and section chief of endocrine surgery for the Thyroid and Parathyroid Center at Baylor College of Medicine

From https://blogs.bcm.edu/2021/04/22/how-does-covid-19-impact-the-adrenal-gland/

New study identifies the main genetic causes of autoimmune Addison’s disease

Novel genetic associations could pave the way for early interventions and personalized treatment of an incurable condition.

Scientists from the University of Bergen (Norway) and Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) have discovered the genes involved in autoimmune Addison’s disease, a condition where the body’s immune systems destroys the adrenal cortex leading to a life-threatening hormonal deficiency of cortisol and aldosterone.

Groundbreaking study

The rarity of Addison’s disease has until now made scanning of the whole genome for clues to the disease’s genetic origins difficult, as this method normally requires many thousands of study participants. However, by combining the world’s two largest Addison’s disease registries, Prof. Eystein Husebye and his team at the University of Bergen and collaborators at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden (prof. Kämpe) were able to identify strong genetic signals associated with the disease. Most of them are directly involved in the development and functioning of the human immune system including specific molecular types in the so-called HLA-region (this is what makes matching donors and recipients in organ transplants necessary) and two different types of a gene called AIRE (which stands for AutoImmune REgulator).

AIRE is a key factor in shaping the immune system by removing self-reacting immune cells. Variants of AIRE, such as the ones identified in this study, could compromise this elimination of self-reacting cells, which could lead to an autoimmune attack later in life.

Knowing what predisposes people to develop Addison’s disease opens up the possibilities of determining the molecular repercussions of the predisposing genetic variation (currently ongoing in Prof. Husebye’s lab). The fact that it is now feasible to map the genetic risk profile of an individual also means that personalised treatment aimed at stopping and even reversing the autoimmune adrenal destruction can become a feasible option in the future.

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Contact information:

Professor at the University of Bergen, Eystein Husebye – Eystein.Husebye@uib.no – cell phone +47 99 40 47 88

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

From https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/tuob-nsi021221.php

Earwax may reveal how stressed you are

How stressed are you? Your earwax could hold the answer.

A new method of collecting and analyzing earwax for levels of the stress hormone cortisol may be a simple and cheap way to track the mental health of people with depression and anxiety.

Cortisol is a crucial hormone that spikes when a person is stressed and declines when they’re relaxed. In the short-term, the hormone is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, so it’s important for survival. But cortisol is often consistently elevated in people with depression and anxiety, and persistent high levels of cortisol can have negative effects on the immune system, blood pressure and other bodily functions.

There are other disorders which involve abnormal cortisol, including Cushing’s disease (caused by the overproduction of cortisol) and Addison’s disease (caused by the underproduction of cortisol). People with Cushing’s disease have abnormal fat deposits, weakened immune systems and brittle bones. People with Addison’s disease have dangerously low blood pressure.

There are a lot of ways to measure cortisol: in saliva, in blood, even in hair. But saliva and blood samples capture only a moment in time, and cortisol fluctuates significantly throughout the day. Even the experience of getting a needle stick to draw blood can increase stress, and thus cortisol levels. Hair samples can provide a snapshot of cortisol over several months instead of several minutes, but hair can be expensive to analyze — and some people don’t have much of it.

Andrés Herane-Vives, a lecturer at University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Institute of Psychiatry, and his colleagues instead turned to the ear. Earwax is stable and resistant to bacterial contamination, so it can be shipped to a laboratory easily for analysis. It also can hold a record of cortisol levels stretching over weeks.

But previous methods of harvesting earwax involved sticking a syringe into the ear and flushing it out with water, which can be slightly painful and stressful. So Herane-Vives and his colleagues developed a swab that, when used, would be no more stressful than a Q-tip. The swab has a shield around the handle, so that people can’t stick it too far into their ear and damage their eardrum, and a sponge at the end to collect the wax.

In a small pilot study, researchers collected blood, hair and earwax from 37 participants at two different time points. At each collection point, they sampled earwax using a syringe from one ear, and using the new self-swab method from the other. The researchers then compared the reliability of the cortisol measurements from the self-swab earwax with that of the other methods.

They found that cortisol was more concentrated in earwax than in hair, making for easier analysis. Analyzing the self-swabbed earwax was also faster and more efficient than analyzing the earwax from the syringe, which had to be dried out before using. Finally, the earwax showed more consistency in cortisol levels compared with the other methods, which were more sensitive to fluctuations caused by things like recent alcohol consumption. Participants also said that self-swabbing was more comfortable than the syringe method.

The researchers reported their findings Nov. 2 in the journal Heliyon. Herane-Vives is also starting a company called Trears to market the new method. In the future, he hopes that earwax could also be used to monitor other hormones. The researchers also need to follow up with studies of Asian individuals, who were left out of this pilot study because a significant number only produce dry, flaky earwax as opposed to wet, waxy earwax.

“After this successful pilot study, if our device holds up to further scrutiny in larger trials, we hope to transform diagnostics and care for millions of people with depression or cortisol-related conditions such as Addison’s disease and Cushing syndrome, and potentially numerous other conditions,” he said in a statement.

Originally published in Live Science.

2 Health Conditions That Can Cause Hyperpigmentation

Addison’s disease: Hyperpigmentation is a classic symptom of Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands fails to produce steroid hormone. The disease causes darkening of the skin in certain areas.

Cushing’s syndrome: The abnormal amount of cortisol in the human body causes a condition known as the Cushing’s syndrome. And one of the symptoms of the disorder is hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Adapted from http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/health-conditions-that-can-cause-hyperpigmentation/

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