guy in lab doing some tests

Which Lab Tests Can Detect Adrenal Gland Issues?

Specific lab tests are used to diagnose adrenal gland disorders, with DHEA-Sulfate and Cortisol being particularly important. DHEA-S acts as a direct indicator of adrenal function, whereas Cortisol provides information on stress response and adrenal health. Furthermore, testosterone levels, while less directly related, might indicate hormonal abnormalities affecting the adrenal glands.

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Adrenal gland issues can have a big influence on a person’s health, impacting everything from metabolism to blood pressure and stress reactions. Laboratory testing is critical in detecting these diseases, providing insights into the functioning of these little but powerful glands located above the kidneys. Healthcare practitioners can discover anomalies in hormone levels such as cortisol and aldosterone, which may suggest Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, or adrenal insufficiency. This beginning examination will dig into the many lab tests available for identifying adrenal gland abnormalities, emphasizing their significance in assuring correct diagnosis and appropriate therapy of adrenal-related illnesses.

Comprehensive Wellness Panel Lab Test

DHEA-S is mostly generated by the adrenal glands, with minor quantities made in the brain and gonads.1 It acts as a precursor to both male and female sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, and is essential for a variety of biological processes, including the development of secondary sexual characteristics and metabolic control.2

The DHEA-S test is useful in diagnosing adrenal gland disorders because it might reflect the activity of the adrenal cortex—the adrenal glands’ outer layer. Abnormal DHEA-S levels may suggest a variety of adrenal diseases. Elevated DHEA-S levels may indicate adrenal hyperplasia or tumors, such as benign adenomas and, less occasionally, adrenal carcinomas.3

guy in lab doing some tests

These diseases can cause adrenal hormone overproduction, leading to symptoms such as early puberty in children, hirsutism (excessive hair growth), acne, and reproductive problems in adults.

Low DHEA-S levels, on the other hand, may indicate adrenal insufficiency, which occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones.4

This disorder can be diagnosed as Addison’s disease, which is characterized by weight loss, muscular weakness, exhaustion, low blood pressure, and skin discoloration. Reduced DHEA-S levels in Addison’s disease indicate a decreased ability of the adrenal glands to operate normally.

The DHEA-S test is frequently conducted in conjunction with other hormone tests to offer a more complete picture of adrenal health and to assist distinguish between adrenal gland illnesses and problems affecting the pituitary gland, which also plays an important role in hormonal control. By evaluating DHEA-S levels, healthcare personnel can acquire useful insights about the adrenal glands’ production, which can help with the diagnosis, treatment planning, and monitoring of adrenal gland-related illnesses.

Male Hormone and Female Hormone Lab Test

DHEA-S is the most closely linked test to assessing adrenal gland function in this panel as we already explained above. It is a hormone mostly generated by the adrenal glands and acts as a precursor to sex hormones. Abnormal levels may suggest a variety of adrenal diseases, including adrenal hyperplasia or adrenal insufficiency.5

Cortisol is a steroid hormone generated by the adrenal cortex that helps manage stress, immunological response, and metabolism. Its levels fluctuate throughout the day, increasing in the morning and decreasing at night. Abnormal cortisol levels might indicate adrenal problems: excessive levels may indicate Cushing’s syndrome, a condition of overproduction caused by adrenal tumors or pituitary adenomas, whereas low levels may indicate Addison’s disease, which is characterized by adrenal insufficiency. Cortisol testing, particularly with a diurnal rhythm examination, can reveal disturbances in adrenal gland function.

Although testosterone is generally connected with the testes in men and the ovaries in women, the adrenal glands generate modest amounts of it as well. It contributes significantly to muscular mass, bone density, and libido in both genders. While abnormal testosterone levels alone do not identify adrenal problems, they might indicate hormonal abnormalities that may necessitate more research into adrenal health. For example, low testosterone levels, combined with other symptoms, may need a more thorough investigation of adrenal function to rule out underlying problems impacting hormone synthesis.

Sleep and Stress Lab Test

The cortisol test diagnoses adrenal gland abnormalities by evaluating cortisol levels in blood, saliva, or urine. Cortisol is an important hormone generated by the adrenal cortex that regulates stress response, metabolism, immunological function, and blood pressure. Healthcare practitioners can learn about adrenal gland function and identify potential abnormalities by monitoring cortisol levels at various times of day or in reaction to certain stimuli.

Diurnal Rhythm Assessment

Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, rising in the early morning and dropping to their lowest at night. A disturbance in this rhythm might suggest adrenal gland malfunction. For example, in Cushing’s syndrome, cortisol levels may remain high throughout the day and night, despite the typical diurnal drop. In Addison’s disease or secondary adrenal insufficiency, cortisol levels may be continuously low, with no characteristic morning peak.

Response to ACTH Stimulation

The ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) stimulation test determines how the adrenal glands react to ACTH, which boosts cortisol production. If the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol in response to ACTH, it indicates adrenal insufficiency.

Low-Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test

This test detects Cushing’s syndrome by giving a low dose of dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, and then assessing cortisol levels the next day. In healthy people, dexamethasone reduces cortisol production. An inability to regulate cortisol levels indicates Cushing’s syndrome.

Late-Night Salivary Cortisol

This test detects cortisol levels in the saliva late at night, when they should be lowest. Cushing’s syndrome is characterized by elevated cortisol levels late at night.

Healthcare practitioners can identify illnesses such as Cushing’s syndrome (excess cortisol production) and Addison’s disease (inadequate cortisol production) by evaluating cortisol levels in combination with clinical signs and symptoms. The test’s capacity to detect anomalies in cortisol production and control is critical for accurately identifying and treating adrenal gland illnesses.


Diagnosing adrenal gland disorders is heavily reliant on a variety of specialized lab tests, each of which provides unique insights into adrenal gland function and health. Among them, the DHEA-Sulfate test is notable for its direct relationship to adrenal gland production, although Cortisol and Testosterone levels give further, albeit indirect, indicators of adrenal health. These tests, when combined with a patient’s symptoms and other diagnostic results, can reliably identify illnesses including Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, and other adrenal dysfunctions. Understanding the function and findings of these lab tests is critical for healthcare practitioners in developing successful treatment strategies for adrenal gland illnesses, ensuring that patients receive prompt and appropriate care.

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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?

It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.

What does a routine blood test cover?

A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.

How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?

A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

What is the cost of a lab test?

In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.

Read More: Lab Testing FAQ



[2] Tang J. - The Utilization of Dehydroepiandrosterone as a Sexual Hormone Precursor in Premenopausal and Postmenopausal Women: An Overview;

[3] Iliev DI. - Very High Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEAS) in Serum of an Overweight Female Adolescent Without a Tumor;

[4] Lennartsson AK. - Low Levels of Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate in Younger Burnout Patients;

[5] Momodu II. - Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia;