The adrenocorticotropic hormone is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. The ACTH levels are often measured in order to diagnose and monitor conditions that are usually caused when the body is either deficient in cortisol or has excess of it. Some of these conditions are Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease, and hypopituitarism.
A dysfunction of the anterior pituitary gland can cause insufficiency of the hormone, and can, therefore, affect the growth of a person. Conditions like hypopituitarism are caused when there is a deficiency of the adrenocorticotropic hormone.
Both ACTH and cortisol levels are measured so that there can be a differentiation among similar conditions that are caused due to the abnormalities in the levels of both cortisol and ACTH. Typically, if the cortisol levels are high, ACTH levels will be low. Therefore, if cortisol levels are high in conditions like Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome, the ACTH levels will be significantly low.
The ACTH levels are checked when there are symptoms like obesity, where though the arms and the legs remain normal, there is abnormal weight gain in the trunk region. There may be roundness of the face, the skin becomes extremely thin and fragile, muscles are weak, there may be acne on the face, and the hair on the body increases abnormally.
A deficiency of the adrenocorticotropic hormone is often accompanied by low levels of potassium in the body, high levels of bicarbonate, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In hypopituitarism, which is characterized by the deficiency of the adrenocorticotropic hormone, the symptoms include hypogonadism, fatigue, appetite, decreased sex drive, irregularities in the menstrual cycle, frequent urination at night, and drastic weight loss.
The deficiency of the adrenocorticotropic hormone could also be due to tumors in the pituitary gland. These tumors are usually benign. However, the tumors can have adverse effects on the nerves that control vision. There may be symptoms like headaches, loss of vision, tunnel vision, and double vision. Steroid medication is also often associated with the deficiency of adrenocorticotropic hormones.
The tests should always be reviewed by a qualified medical practitioner since the interpretation of the results can be quite complex. There is a complex relationship between the cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormones. On a normal day, the ACTH levels are the highest in the morning. These levels fall by evening and therefore, the test should ideally be done during the day so that the results are as accurate as possible. However, if there is an abnormality in the production of the ACTH, this diurnal schedule may be disrupted