How to Test the Adrenal Gland

Written by sarah leslie gagan
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The adrenal gland is a part of the human endocrine system. It produces vital hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin that people need to respond to stress and everyday living. Without the two adrenal glands, the human body would not function properly. It is necessary at times to test the adrenal glands to ensure they are secreting the proper levels of hormones required by the human body. A person can use several methods test his adrenal gland and evaluate its functioning. People can perform at home tests to evaluate the need for further medical testing. Medical testing must be ordered by a physician.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Blood pressure monitor
  • Flashlight

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Instructions

    At Home Tests

  1. 1

    Monitor blood pressure for signs of postural hypotention using the following method: Lie down and rest for five to 10 minutes. Using a blood pressure monitor, measure your blood pressure while lying down horizontally. Stand up. Measure your blood pressure, this time while standing. Compare and record both readings. With normal adrenal function, blood pressure will rise 10 to 20 points. If blood pressure drops by 10 points or more, the test is positive for postural hypotension, and decreased adrenal function is indicated.

  2. 2

    Test eye pupil reactions in the following manner: Darken the room and allow pupils to dilate and adjust to the dark. Using a flashlight, shine light into eyes for at least 30 seconds. Your pupils will contract in response to the light. With normal adrenal function, your pupils will remain contracted as long as the light is shining into them. If pupils begin to dilate after 10 to 30 seconds, or fluctuate between contracted and dilated while light is still directed into eyes, adrenal insufficiency is indicated.

  3. 3

    Monitor your skin irritation reaction by doing the following: Draw a line across the skin of your stomach using your fingernail or the dull end of a spoon. If adrenal glands are functioning normally, the line will immediately turn red. If the line stays white, adrenal insufficiency is a possibility. This assessment is most reliable in indicating cases of severe adrenal insufficiency, and is not a reliable method of assessment for mild adrenal insufficiency.

    Medical Tests

  1. 1

    Take a 24-hour adrenal hormone saliva test, the most common medical test for adrenal function. Saliva samples must be taken at four specific times in a 24 hour period. Each is placed into a separate specimen container. Because the level of cortisol and other adrenal hormones fluctuates throughout the day, this non-invasive test will give your physician an overall portrait of your adrenal function.

  2. 2

    Utilise the 24 hour blood serum cortisol test. It's similar to the 24 hour adrenal hormone saliva test, and is also a reliable way to test adrenal function. Blood samples are taken at four specific times during a 24 hour period, and evaluated for cortisol and other adrenal hormone levels.

  3. 3

    Perform a 24-hour cumulative urine test under your doctor's guidance. All urine produced within a designated 24 hour period is collected and tested for a total amount of cortisol and adrenal hormones. The results of this test are useful, but will not measure adrenal output at any specific time as with the saliva and blood serum testing.

  4. 4

    Request that your physician test your adrenal gland function for insufficient output by performing an ACTH (Corticotropin) Stimulation Test. It evaluates the ability of the adrenal gland to respond and produce cortisol when prompted. A blood sample is drawn to measure cortisol level. Then you are given an intramuscular injection of an adrenal gland stimulator called ACTH. Blood samples are drawn 30 minutes and 60 minutes after the injection to measure the response of the adrenal gland. Insufficient output of cortisol produced by the adrenal glands after ACTH injection indicates Addison's Disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency.

  5. 5

    Test your adrenal glands for over productivity, also known as Cushing's disease, using a Dexamethasone Suppression Test. An oral dose of the medication Dexamethasone is given every six hours for two days to stimulate the adrenal gland. Blood samples are drawn at 24 and 48 hours to measure cortisol levels in blood. Two 24-hour cumulative urine samples are collected during the two-day process to test cortisol and other hormone levels.

Tips and warnings

  • Become familiar with disorders of the adrenal gland and their signs and symptoms.

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