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Cortisol in Urine

How It Feels

There is no pain while collecting a 24-hour urine sample.

Risks

There is no chance for problems while collecting a 24-hour urine sample.

Results

A cortisol test is done to measure the level of the hormone cortisol in a 24-hour sample of urine.

Normal

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Cortisol level in a 24-hour urine sample1
Adult

Less than 100 micrograms (mcg) or less than 276 nanomoles (nmol)

Teen

5–55 mcg or 14–152 nmol

Child

2–27 mcg or 5–75 nmol

High values

  • One cause of Cushing's syndrome is Cushing's disease, a condition caused by a noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland (adenoma). An adenoma causes the pituitary gland to make too much of the hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn causes the adrenal glands to make too much cortisol.
  • ACTH can be made by other conditions, such as cancer of the lung. This high ACTH level causes the adrenal glands to make more cortisol.
  • The adrenal gland can develop tumors (benign or cancerous) that make cortisol and cause Cushing's syndrome.
  • A high blood cortisol level can be caused by severe liver or kidney disease, depression, hyperthyroidism, or obesity.
  • Conditions such as recent surgery, illness, injury, or whole body infection (sepsis) can cause high cortisol levels.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

What To Think About

Citations

  1. Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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