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What are some of the effects of high cortisol levels?

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Quick Answer

Some conditions that have been linked to high cortisol levels are a weakened immune system, abdominal obesity, hypertension and hyperglycemia, according to an article published by the University of New Mexico. Prolonged elevated levels of cortisol, and the physical changes and potentially serious conditions that can result from it, are collectively referred to as Cushing's syndrome. Additional symptoms associated with Cushing's syndrome are mood swings, depression, weakness, increased thirst, and a disruption of menstruation, as noted by the Yale School of Medicine.

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What are some of the effects of high cortisol levels?
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Full Answer

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced within the cortex of the adrenal gland as a reaction to stress or a decrease in blood sugar levels. Prolonged elevated cortisol levels can result in a wasting away of muscle tissue and progressive bone disease. Increased cortisol levels, and the stress that triggers it, can have a debilitating effect on the body's immune system. As a result, otherwise healthy adults can experience a significantly longer period of time for a wound to heal than individuals whose immune systems have not been affected by prolonged stress or elevated cortisol levels.

Some of the symptoms associated with Cushing's syndrome can be the result of other conditions, and the presence of one of more of those symptoms does not necessarily point to elevated cortisol levels. Because of the potentially serious effects of Cushing's syndrome if it is allowed to go untreated, individuals who suspect the condition should see their doctor, as advised by the Yale School of Medicine.

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