Adrenocorticotropic hormone is a hormone in the human body commonly referred to as ACTH. Adrenocorticotropic hormone is a hormone that is produced in the pituitary gland of the body. This gland is one of the main glands of the body and it produces a whole range of hormones which are used to control and regulate various body functions. Adrenocorticotropic hormone is measured by testing a blood sample.
The function of the Adrenocorticotropic hormone is to encourage the body to manufacture a substance known as cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid. This particular steroid acts to regulate the levels of protein, glucose and the rate of metabolism in the body. It is also used as an immunosuppressant. An immunosuppressant is something that reduces the sensitivity of the human immune system. In a healthy person, this is necessary in order to prevent the immune system from having an auto immune response, which is when the immune system attacks healthy tissue of the human body, assuming it to be a foreign body. Lack of Adrenocorticotropic hormone can actually cause a low level of cortisol which might be responsible for auto immune diseases or disorders. In a healthy person, if the level of cortisol is low, the production of Adrenocorticotropic hormone increases and the opposite is applicable when the level of cortisol is high.
Because of the complex processes related to production and use of Adrenocorticotropic hormone, it becomes an important hormone in the healthy functioning of the body. One may interpret the results of an Adrenocorticotropic hormone test based on the effects that high levels of the hormone might cause.
Elevated levels of Adrenocorticotropic hormone as well as elevated levels of cortisol are related to diseases including Cushing's disease, which is when a tumor exists in the pituitary which causes excess ACTH production. Cushing's syndrome is similar to the disease but may refer to a condition where the source of the elevated ACTH production is not in the pituitary gland. It can also be caused by consumption of steroids as supplements or medication.
ACTH levels may be normal even when a person has a low level of cortisol production. This may link the condition to something known as Addison's disease where the adrenal glands are not properly responding to a normal level of ACTH. However, if the pituitary is damaged and there is low level of ACTH, this might cause the production of cortisol to be stunted
Submitted by M T on April 14, 2010 at 12:02