Quest Test

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) Plasma Test

Quick Overview

ACTH Plasma Test identifies symptoms associated with excess or deficient cortisol.

Test #211


Availability: In stock

Also Known As ACTH, Adrenal Corticotropin, Corticotropin, ACTH Plasma
Preparation No fasting required. Blood must be drawn before 10am. Stop biotin consumption at least 72 hours prior to the collection.
Test Results 1-2 days. May take longer based on weather, holiday or lab delays.

The adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) plasma test, sometimes referred to as the cortisol blood test, identifies symptoms associated with excess or deficient cortisol. ACTH is a hormone produced in the pituitary gland and is often made in response to stress. Created in the adrenal gland, cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps buffer the effects of stress on the human body. Because the level of ACTH changes typically in the opposite direction to the level of cortisol, much can be learned by identifying an imbalance in this relationship and the direction in which the imbalance occurs.

An ACTH plasma test is often ordered when a patient shows signs or symptoms associated with excess or deficient cortisol, such as:

  • weight loss or gain
  • high or low blood pressure
  • fragile skin
  • purple streaks or lines on the abdomen
  • fatigue
  • muscle wasting and other varied symptoms

This test is a convenient and cheap way to help identify excess and deficient cortisol levels that can lead to more significant health concerns such as adrenal disorder, Cushing’s syndrome and Addison's disease.

Blood cortisol tests are ordered when a patient suffers from symptoms associated with deficient or excess cortisol. Measuring both the ACTH and cortisol levels can help to differentiate among some of these conditions. Excessive cortisol will often cause:

  • weight issues such as obesity (especially in the trunk area, and not in the arms and legs)
  • a rounded face
  • fragile and thin skin
  • purple lines on the abdomen
  • acne
  • muscle weakness
  • increased body hair.

It is often accompanied by low potassium, high blood pressure, high glucose (sometimes diabetes), and high bicarbonate.

Patients with insufficient cortisol production may exhibit such symptoms as:

  • weight loss
  • muscle weakness
  • increased skin pigmentation (even in areas not exposed to the sun)
  • fatigue and loss of appetite

A low cortisol level is often accompanied by low sodium, low blood pressure, high calcium, low blood glucose, and high potassium.

When the condition is caused by a pituitary tumor (typically benign), the patient may also experience symptoms associated with the compression of nearby nerves and cells. The tumor may also affect nerves that control vision and cause "tunnel vision" (inability to see things off to the side), loss of vision to some localized areas, and/or double vision, in addition to possibly causing a change in a consistent pattern of headaches.

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