Higher cortisol levels found in hair of patients with adrenal insufficiency using hydrocortisone
Patients on hydrocortisone replacement for adrenal insufficiency appear to have elevated cortisol concentrations in their scalp hair, according to recent findings.
In the cross-sectional study, Nienke R. Biermasz, MD, PhD, of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues evaluated patients treated at the outpatient clinical of the medical center between July 2012 and January 2014. Participants included 132 adults with primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency being treated with hydrocortisone (group 1) and 42 controls with a pituitary disease receiving hydrocortisone (group 2). A third group of 195 healthy controls were also included in the analysis.
The researchers collected locks of roughly 150 hairs cut as close to the scalp as possible. The most proximal 3 cm of hair were used in the analysis to correlate with the most recent 3 months. The researchers extracted cortisol from the hair and used ELISA to measure cortisol concentration.
The researchers found that compared with healthy controls and group 2, group 1 had a higher hair cortisol concentration (P < .001) and hair cortisol concentration was associated with hydrocortisone dose (P = .04).
Male participants in group 1 had higher hair cortisol concentrations compared with women in the group (P < .001).
Compared with healthy controls, group 1 had a higher mean BMI (P < .001) and BMI was associated with hair cortisol concentration in the overall sample. The association between hair cortisol concentration and BMI was especially strong in men.
According to the researchers, further studies are needed to better understand the sex-specific associations between hair cortisol concentrations and hydrocortisone use in this population.
“Intriguingly, this gender effect seems to be specific for hydrocortisone use, since it is not present in controls with an intact [hyptothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis],” the researchers wrote. “In female patients, higher self-reported hydrocortisone intake was associated with higher [hair cortisol concentration], whereas this association was not found in male patients who demonstrated on average higher [hair cortisol concentration] even in the lower dose range.” – by Jennifer Byrne
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.