What is an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) test? This test measures the level of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the blood. ACTH is a hormone made by the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain. ACTH controls the production of another hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is made by the adrenal glands, two small glands located above the kidneys.
What is it used for? An ACTH test is often done along with a cortisol test to diagnose disorders of the pituitary or adrenal glands. These include: Cushing's syndrome, a disorder in which the adrenal gland makes too much cortisol. It may be caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland or the use of steroid medicines. Steroids are used to treat inflammation, but can have side effects that effect cortisol levels. Cushing's disease, a form of Cushing's syndrome. Cushing's disease is usually caused by a noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland. The tumor makes too much ACTH. This causes the adrenal glands to make too much cortisol. Addison disease, a condition in which the adrenal gland doesn't make enough cortisol. Hypopituitarism, a disorder in which the pituitary gland does not make enough of some or all of its hormones.
What do the results mean? Results of an ACTH test are often compared with the results of cortisol tests and may show one of the following: High ACTH and high cortisol levels: This may mean Cushing's disease. Low ACTH and high cortisol levels: This may mean Cushing's syndrome or a tumor of the adrenal gland. High ACTH and low cortisol levels: This may mean Addison disease. Low ACTH and low cortisol levels. This may mean hypopituitarism.
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