microscope in a lab

Lab Tests That Can Detect Adrenal Gland Issues

Adrenal gland problems are diagnosed by certain lab tests, among which cortisol and DHEA-Sulfate are particularly essential. While cortisol gives information on stress response and adrenal health, DHEA-S serves as a direct indication of adrenal function. Moreover, testosterone levels may be a sign of hormonal imbalances affecting the adrenal glands, even if they are not directly connected.

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Problems with the adrenal glands can significantly affect a person’s health, affecting everything from blood pressure and stress responses to metabolism. In order to understand how these little but potent glands above the kidneys operate, laboratory testing is essential for identifying these illnesses. Healthcare professionals are able to identify abnormalities in hormone levels, such as those of cortisol and aldosterone, that may indicate adrenal insufficiency, Cushing’s syndrome, or Addison’s disease.

microscope in a lab

This introductory session will explore the many laboratory tests that are available to detect abnormalities in the adrenal glands, highlighting their importance in ensuring accurate diagnosis and suitable treatment for disorders connected to the adrenal glands.

Comprehensive Wellness Panel Lab Test

The adrenal glands produce the 1, with the brain and gonads producing trace amounts as well. It is necessary for several biological functions, such as the development of secondary sexual traits and metabolic regulation, and it functions as a precursor to both male and female sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.2

Because it may represent the activity of the adrenal cortex, the outer layer of the adrenal glands, the DHEA-S test is helpful in the diagnosis of illnesses involving the adrenal glands. Numerous adrenal disorders may be indicated by abnormal DHEA-S levels. Increased DHEA-S levels might be a sign of malignancies such benign adenomas or, less frequently, adrenal carcinomas, or they could be a sign of adrenal hyperplasia.3 These conditions can result in an overproduction of adrenal hormones, which can produce symptoms including acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth), early puberty in children, and reproductive issues in adults.

Conversely, low DHEA-S levels might be a sign of adrenal insufficiency, a condition in which the adrenal glands are unable to generate adequate hormones.4 Addison’s disease, which is characterized by low blood pressure, fatigue, discolored skin, and muscle weakness, can be used to identify this condition. Lower DHEA-S levels in Addison’s illness suggest that the adrenal glands’ capacity to function normally has diminished.

In order to provide a more comprehensive picture of adrenal health and help distinguish between conditions affecting the adrenal glands and those affecting the pituitary gland, which is also crucial for controlling hormones, the DHEA-S test is routinely performed in combination with other hormone assays. Healthcare professionals can gain valuable knowledge about the adrenal glands’ production by measuring DHEA-S levels. This knowledge can be applied to the diagnosis, planning, and monitoring of disorders linked to the adrenal glands.

Male and Female Hormone Lab Test

As previously mentioned, the DHEA-S test has the most correlation with evaluating adrenal gland function in this panel. It is a hormone that functions as a precursor to sex hormones and is mostly produced by the adrenal glands. A number of adrenal disorders, such as adrenal hyperplasia or adrenal insufficiency, may be indicated by abnormal values.

The adrenal cortex produces the steroid hormone cortisol, which aids in the regulation of metabolism, stress, and the immune system. Throughout the day, its levels change, rising in the morning and falling at night. Unusual cortisol levels might be a sign of adrenal issues: high levels could be a sign of Cushing’s syndrome, an overproduction disorder brought on by pituitary adenomas or adrenal tumors, while low levels could be a sign of Addison’s disease, a condition marked by adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal gland function abnormalities can be identified by cortisol testing, especially when combined with a diurnal rhythm study.

While the ovaries in women and the testes in men are often associated with the production of testosterone, the adrenal glands also produce small amounts of the hormone. It makes a major contribution to both genders’ libido, bone density, and muscle mass. Although elevated testosterone levels by themselves cannot diagnose adrenal dysfunction, they may point to hormonal imbalances that call for more study on the condition of the adrenal glands. For instance, in order to rule out underlying issues affecting hormone production, a more complete examination of adrenal function may be necessary if low testosterone levels are accompanied by other symptoms.

Sleep and Stress Lab Test

The cortisol test measures the amount of cortisol in blood, saliva, or urine to identify anomalies related to the adrenal glands. The adrenal cortex produces cortisol, a crucial hormone that controls blood pressure, metabolism, immunological response, and stress response. By keeping an eye on cortisol levels throughout the day or in response to certain stimuli, medical professionals can get insight into the functioning of the adrenal glands and spot any anomalies.

Diurnal Rhythm Assessment

Naturally, cortisol levels rise early in the morning and fall at night, when they are at their lowest. An irregularity in this cycle might indicate adrenal gland dysfunction. For instance, despite the usual diurnal decline, cortisol levels in people with Cushing’s disease may stay high all day and all night. Cortisol levels may be consistently low in Addison’s disease or secondary adrenal insufficiency, lacking the typical morning peak.

Response to ACTH Stimulation

The adrenal glands’ response to ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which increases the production of cortisol, is ascertained by the ACTH stimulation test. Adrenal insufficiency is indicated if the adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol in response to ACTH.

Low-Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test

By administering a small dosage of the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone and measuring cortisol levels the next day, this test can identify Cushing’s syndrome. Dexamethasone decreases the production of cortisol in healthy individuals. The absence of cortisol regulation is indicative of Cushing’s syndrome.

Late-Night Salivary Cortisol

Late at night, when cortisol levels should be at their lowest, this test measures them in saliva. Elevated cortisol levels late at night are a characteristic of Cushing’s syndrome.

Examining cortisol levels in conjunction with clinical signs and symptoms allows medical professionals to diagnose conditions like Addison’s disease (inadequate cortisol production) and Cushing’s syndrome (excessive cortisol production). The test’s ability to identify and treat adrenal gland diseases properly depends on its ability to detect abnormalities in cortisol production and regulation.


Many specialized lab tests are used to diagnose problems of the adrenal glands, and each test offers a different perspective on the health and function of the adrenal glands. While cortisol and testosterone levels provide additional, albeit indirect, markers of adrenal health, the DHEA-Sulfate test stands out among them due to its direct correlation with adrenal gland production. These tests can accurately detect conditions including Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, and other adrenal dysfunctions when paired with a patient’s symptoms and further diagnostic findings. Healthcare professionals must comprehend the purpose and results of these laboratory tests in order to successfully treat disorders of the adrenal glands and guarantee that patients receive timely and appropriate care.

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[2] The Utilization of Dehydroepiandrosterone as a Sexual Hormone Precursor in Premenopausal and Postmenopausal Women: An Overview. Tang J.

[3] Very High Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEAS) in Serum of an Overweight Female Adolescent Without a Tumor. Iliev DI.

[4] Low Levels of Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate in Younger Burnout Patients. Lennartsson AK.

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