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Adrenocorticotropic Hormone Test

ACTH Test

ACTH Test is used to know the amount of the adrenocorticotropic hormone in your body. How ACTH test is done & what do the results mean?

A blood test used to determine the amount of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the blood. ACTH Test can be measured to help diagnose or rule out certain conditions, such as Cushing’s syndrome.


What is an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) test?

This test measures the amount of ACTH in the blood. The pituitary gland is in charge of ACTH production. The pituitary gland is part of the endocrine system, which is a network of glands that collaborate to produce hormones that affect organs, tissues, and other glands to regulate systems throughout the body. It is located below the brain in the center of the head.

The adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) promotes cortisol production. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands that have a critical part in assisting you to:

  • Respond to a stressful situation.
  • Fight infection.
  • Control your blood sugar levels.
  • Keep your blood pressure in check.
  • Control your metabolism or the way your body consumes food and energy.

Cortisol levels that are too high or too low might cause major health concerns. ACTH levels rise in response to low cortisol levels and decline in response to high cortisol levels. The hypothalamus produces a corticotropin-releasing hormone in response to a drop in blood cortisol levels (CRH).

This stimulates the pituitary gland to produce ACTH, which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands, which are small organs at the top of each kidney, to produce cortisol. The hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands must all be functioning properly in order to produce adequate amounts of cortisol.

The regulation of ACTH and cortisol production can be disrupted by conditions affecting the brain, pituitary, or adrenal glands, causing the glands to produce more or less of the hormones. Signs and symptoms of cortisol excess or insufficiency can arise as a result of this.

Cushing’s disease, adrenal insufficiency (Addison disease), and hypopituitarism are all conditions that affect ACTH. Some tumors outside of the pituitary, such as those in the lungs, can also produce ACTH, which raises cortisol level.

 ACTH test is also called: Corticotropin test, adrenocorticotropic hormone blood test

What is an adrenocorticotropic hormone test used for?

Cushing's disease
adrenocorticotropic hormone blood test, acth blood test normal range,

To diagnose diseases of the pituitary or adrenal glands, an ACTH test is sometimes combined with a cortisol test. These are some of the conditions the test help to diagnose:

  • Cushing’s syndrome is a condition in which the adrenal gland produces excessive amounts of cortisol. A tumor in the pituitary gland or the use of steroid medications might cause it. Steroids are used to treat inflammation, but they can have cortisol-lowering adverse effects.
  • Cushing’s syndrome is a type of Cushing’s illness. A noncancerous growth of the pituitary gland is the most common cause of Cushing’s disease. The tumor produces an excessive amount of ACTH. The adrenal glands produce too much cortisol as a result of this.
  • Addison’s disease is a cortisol deficiency caused by a lack of cortisol production by the adrenal gland.
  • Hypopituitarism is a disorder in which one or more hormones produced by the pituitary gland are insufficient.

Read also: “Acid Fast Bacillus Test


Why do I need an adrenocorticotropic hormone blood test?

If patients have symptoms of too much or too little cortisol, this test may be done.

Too much cortisol can cause the following symptoms:

  • gaining weight.
  • Fat accumulation in the shoulders.
  • Stretch marks (lines) on the abdomen, thighs, and/or breasts that are pink or purple
  • Skin that is quickly bruised.
  • Hair growth on the body.
  • Muscle deterioration.
  • Fatigue.
  • Acne.

Cortisol deficiency can cause the following symptoms:

  • Loss of weight.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Dizziness.
  • Darkening of the skin.
  • Craving for salt.
  • Fatigue

If you have hypopituitarism symptoms, you may also need this test. Symptoms will differ depending on the severity of the disease, but they may include:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Irregular menstrual periods and infertility in women.
  • Loss of body and facial hair in men.
  • Lower sex drive in men and women.
  • Sensitivity to cold.
  • Urinating more often than usual.
  • Fatigue.

When a pituitary tumor (generally benign) causes the illness, the affected person may experience symptoms related to the compression of adjacent cells and nerves. The tumor, for example, can modify the pattern of headaches. It can also impair the nerves that govern vision, resulting in symptoms like “tunnel vision” (inability to see things off to the side), loss of vision in certain areas, or double vision.


What happens during the test?

Corticotropin Test
Corticotropin test,

Drawing blood is a common medical procedure. In a lab, blood is usually obtained from the vein on the inside of the elbow or the top of the hand. To take a blood sample, follow these steps:

  1. Prior to the blood draw, the region is cleaned with an antiseptic swab.
  2. A band is wrapped across your arm, increasing the pressure in your vein and making it more visible and accessible.
  3. A test tube is linked to the needle and filled with blood once it is inserted into your vein.

You may have more than one vial of blood obtained if you are having other blood tests in addition to a hematocrit test.


Is there anything I can do to prepare for the ACTH test?

Before the test:

  • you may need to fast (not eat or drink) for the night.
  • You’ll need to cease taking steroids for up to 48 hours before the test if you’re using them. Steroids have the potential to skew test results.
  • In the 48 hours coming up to the test, your doctor may also advise you to decrease your carbohydrate intake.
  • Exercise should be avoided for the 12 hours leading up to the test.
  • Have a restful night’s sleep.
  • In the 12 hours leading up to the test, avoid emotional stress.

Because cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, tests are normally performed early in the morning.


Is the test dangerous?

Taking a blood test carries relatively possible little risk. There may be some minor discomfort or bruising where the needle was inserted, but these symptoms usually fade rapidly.


What do ACTH test results indicate?

ACTH Test
ACTH Test, ACTH test interpretation,

The amount of ACTH in your blood is measured in picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). At 8 a.m., adults’ ACTH levels should be between 10 and 50 pg/mL. At midnight, the number falls below 5-10 pg/mL.

The interpretation of the results can be difficult in many circumstances. Throughout the day, ACTH and cortisol levels change. ACTH levels are normally highest in the morning and lowest at night. It will increase cortisol production, which will follow the same daily rhythm as ACTH but rise later in the day and fall later in the evening. This diurnal oscillation is frequently disrupted by conditions that alter ACTH and cortisol synthesis.

ACTH and cortisol test results are frequently compared. The table below shows the frequent ACTH and cortisol patterns associated with various illnesses of the adrenal and pituitary glands.

ACTH LevelCortisol LevelDisease
IncreasedIncreasedCushing disease (pituitary tumor producing ACTH)
DecreasedIncreasedAdrenal tumor
IncreasedIncreased“Ectopic” ACTH (ACTH made by a tumor outside the pituitary, usually in the lung)
IncreasedDecreasedAddison disease (underactive or damaged adrenal glands)
Decreased or NormalDecreasedHypopituitarism

Cushing disease and ectopic ACTH cannot be reliably distinguished from cortisol and ACTH measurements alone. Other tests are frequently performed to aid health care providers in determining this distinction.

When some medicines are given to promote or repress hormone production, testing the change in cortisol levels typically aids the health care practitioner in making the correct diagnosis.


Is there anything else I should be aware of about an ACTH test?

To detect Addison disease and hypopituitarism, an ACTH stimulation test is utilized instead of an ACTH test. An ACTH stimulation test analyses cortisol levels before and after an ACTH injection.

Taking certain drugs, such as any steroid, whether oral, inhaled, topical or eye drop, can lead to unexpected outcomes. Megestrol acetate might also have unfavorable effects. Mifepristone (RU486) works as a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, which means it affects ACTH levels.

Multiple sclerosis and infantile spasms have both been treated using ACTH as a medicinal medication.

ACTH secretion may be boosted by stress.

My pituitary gland does not produce ACTH. What exactly is going on?

ACTH can come from a variety of sources, including the pituitary gland and other parts of the body. Ectopic ACTH production is caused by malignancies elsewhere in the body, most commonly (but not always) in the lungs. Cushing syndrome is caused by this, and it may indicate the presence of a non-cancerous tumor to your doctor.

If you have any concerns about your ACTH test results, speak with your doctor or your healthcare provider.
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