What are the symptoms of cortisol deficiency?


Quick Answer

Symptoms of cortisol deficiency include weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure and darkening of the skin. Cortisol deficiency symptoms often begin gradually. Many sufferers are unaware of the condition until a crisis-like event causes the symptoms to worsen dramatically, explains the Pituitary Network Association.

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Full Answer

Cortisol deficiency, also referred to as adrenal insufficiency, occurs when the adrenal glands are unable to produce adequate amounts of cortisol. Cortisol plays an important role in maintaining blood pressure and cardiovascular function, slowing the inflammatory immune system response, balancing insulin effects and regulating the metabolism. A cortisol deficiency affects many areas of the body in varying degrees of severity, according to the Pituitary Network Association.

Low blood pressure caused by cortisol deficiency becomes worse upon standing. Sufferers may also experience dizziness and fainting. Fatigue is often chronic and worsening. Approximately half of those with cortisol deficiency experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Darkening of the skin affects both exposed and nonexposed areas. It looks like a dark tanning and is most visible on pressure points such as elbows and knees, mucus membranes, skin folds and scars, states the Pituitary Network Association.

Adrenal insufficiency may affect mood and cause irritability or depression. It can cause low blood sugar or cravings of salty foods. Women with a cortisol deficiency may stop menstruating. Many sufferers experience a crisis-like event due to the cortisol deficiency. The symptoms of the crisis often include severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and intense low back, abdomen or leg pain, notes the Pituitary Network Association.

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