What are Common Symptoms of Low Cortisol?

Article Details
  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Fr. Thomas Byles, who refused to leave the sinking Titanic and stayed to help others, is a candidate for sainthood.  more...

October 21 ,  1879 :  Thomas Edison lit up a light bulb for the first time.  more...

A person with low cortisol might first experience gradual, mild symptoms like low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and weight loss. It is also not uncommon for the individual to feel depressed, irritable, and very fatigued. Diarrhea, weakness, and pain in the joints are also common. The symptoms of low cortisol often go unnoticed at first because they tend to be very non-specific. The sufferer will likely believe that these problems are related to some other temporary condition and may not seek medical attention until more severe symptoms begin.

When levels of cortisol reach critically low levels, life-threatening symptoms might develop. These include dangerously low blood pressure levels, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. In most cases, these severe symptoms occur all at once with little warning. If medical attention is not received immediately, it is possible that the individual may die. When these severe symptoms of low cortisol occur, it is often referred to as an Addisonian crisis, which is the most dangerous stage of Addison's disease, the most common cause of low cortisol.


Addison's disease normally affects people between the ages of 30 to 50, and it occurs because the body's immune system begins to attack the adrenal cortex. Cortisol is made inside the adrenal gland, and when a person has this disease, he or she can not produce this hormone in adequate amounts. It is very important for a person's body to have enough cortisol because it keeps the blood pressure and blood sugar levels regulated. Cortisol also acts as an anti-inflammatory throughout the entire body.

It is a good idea for anyone experiencing symptoms of low cortisol to seek medical attention as soon as possible to decrease the chances of more severe symptoms occurring. Diagnosing a person with Addison's disease typically involves a variety of tests to measure the levels of cortisol in the blood. If a person is diagnosed with Addison's disease, he or she will typically begin treatment right away, often with hormone replacement. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Addison's disease, and a person who is diagnosed will have to take the hormones indefinitely to avoid life-threatening complications. As long as medications are taken regularly, however, the disease can typically be managed.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 4

Low cortisol does not always indicate Addison's Disease! There are two other levels where cortisone production may fail. If the failure is coming from the Adrenal Gland, then this is called Primary Hypocortisolism. The second level is at the Pituitary Gland in the brain. This gland releases ACTH which stimulates the Adrenal Glands to produce Cortisol. If failure happens at the Pituitary Gland, this is called Secondary Hypocortisolism. The third level is at the Hypothalamus in the brain. Here, CRH is secreted that stimulates the Pituitary Gland to secrete ACTH, which then makes the Adrenal Gland secrete Cortisol.

So from this you can see that Hypocortisolism can be very complicated. Many doctors test only at the first level. But in order to treat the problem correctly you must test until you find the exact level of failure. Then you supplement at that level to fix this very complicated, looped feedback system.

Post 3

@ankara-- Sorry for the late reply, it's been several weeks since I wrote that post. My cortisol is fairly low and I just started on hormone therapy.

I thought I didn't have any symptoms but then I started to feel very tired lately and I had several occurrences at work where I felt like I would faint. My doctor said that it's probably due to drops in my blood pressure, which of course is a symptom of low cortisol.

The symptoms hit me kind of suddenly, but I feel better since I started taking hormone supplementation.

Post 2

@burcinc-- How low is your cortisol? Mildly low levels might not cause symptoms or it may take some time for them to show up.

Most people don't go to the doctor with these symptoms until their adrenal insufficiency has advanced to Addison's disease which is a serious condition.

Has your doctor started hormone therapy for you? Or does he plan to check your cortisol levels again in a couple of weeks?

Post 1

My blood tests from several weeks ago showed that I have low cortisol. I don't have any of the low cortisol symptoms mentioned in the article. Does it take time for symptoms to appear?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?