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Cortisol in Urine

How It Is Done

  • You start collecting your urine in the morning. When you first get up, empty your bladder but do not save this urine. Write down the time that you urinated. This marks the beginning of your 24-hour collection period.
  • For the next 24 hours, collect all your urine. Your doctor or lab will usually provide you with a large container that holds about 1 gal (4 L). The container has a small amount of preservative in it. Urinate into a small, clean container and then pour the urine into the large container. Do not touch the inside of the container with your fingers.
  • Keep the large container in the refrigerator for the 24 hours.
  • Empty your bladder for the final time at or just before the end of the 24-hour period. Add this urine to the large container, and record the time.
  • Do not get toilet paper, pubic hair, stool (feces), menstrual blood, or other foreign matter in the urine sample.

How It Feels

This test does not cause any pain.


Collecting a 24-hour urine sample does not cause problems.


A cortisol test measures the level of the hormone cortisol in a 24-hour sample of urine.


These numbers are just a guide. The range for "normal" varies from lab to lab. Your lab may have a different range. Your lab report should show what range your lab uses for "normal." Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. So a number that is outside the normal range here may still be normal for you.

Cortisol level in a 24-hour urine sample 1

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


5-55 mcg or 14-152 nmol


2-27 mcg or 5-75 nmol

High values

High values of cortisol may be caused by:

  • Some medicines.
  • Pituitary and adrenal tumors, which are usually benign. This means they are not cancer.
  • Some types of cancer, such as adrenal cancer and some rare lung cancers.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
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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