Adrenocorticotropin (also known as adrenocorticotropic hormone, ACTH for short) is better known as the "stress hormone" because the body releases it especially in stressful situations. ACTH is formed in the anterior pituitary of the brain, when the ACTH-mediated corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) stimulates the anterior pituitary gland. ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to produce various hormones, including various sex hormones.

What is adrenocorticotropin?

Schematic representation of the anatomy and structure of the endocrine system (endocrine system). Click to enlarge.

ACTH is a hormone produced in the anterior pituitary. It is increasingly released in situations where people feel stress. Potential stress factors can be injury, illness, general living conditions (work, school) or strong emotions.

For example, tears show a high level of ACTH due to emotional weeping. Due to the clear correlation between stress and ACTH concentration in the blood, ACTH is colloquially referred to as stress hormone.

Production, Manufacturing & Education

ACTH is formed in the pituitary anterior lobe of the brain. However, the pituitary anterior lobe requires production of ACTH as a release of CRH. With the release of ACTH, the adrenal cortex in turn begins to release mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids and sex hormones.

Mineralocorticosteroids are needed by humans for the regulation of potassium-sodium balance, glucocorticoids for the maintenance of glucose metabolism and sex hormones - roughly speaking - for reproduction and for the sexual drive. If the person is not exposed to stress, the concentration of ACTH decreases over the day, so that in the evening shortly before falling asleep only a very low concentration of ACTH is detectable.

If a person is at the mercy of a permanent stress situation, such as an illness or an unsatisfactory work situation, the concentration of ACTH is continuously high. Bad sleep and sleep is the result. Neonatal ACTH release of the brain has not yet materialized. A high concentration of ACTH in the evening can contribute to an unsatisfactory sleep situation in this phase of life.

Function, effect & properties

ACTH is an endogenous hormone that is produced in the pituitary anterior lobe. It provides for the release of various hormones from the adrenal cortex, such as sex hormones and hormones to maintain the potassium / sodium and glucose balance.

A short-term very high payout of ACTH in a stressful situation - such as an attack on one's own person - triggers ACTH in close interaction with the better known adrenaline an escape or a counterattack. In such a situation, the human being has the feeling of "superhuman powers", which can be vital for coping with the situation.

Various illnesses of the body or the ACTH release can severely affect the everyday life of the person, for example, when sleep disturbances occur or the patient is constantly tired. An ACTH imbalance is difficult to diagnose as it can also be associated with countless other illnesses.

Diseases, complaints & disorders

Many diseases and conditions can cause over- or under-functioning ACTH. Severe cold, stress, adrenal insufficiency can lead to increased secretion of ACTH.

The person then feels more stress, he comes to rest badly and in the worst case suffers from sleep disorders. Cushing's disease refers to a pituitary tumor that primarily damages the ACTH-producing cells and stimulates them to increase ACTH production. As a result, the adrenal gland produces increased cortisol, which in turn can cause discomfort (such as disorders of the metabolism, expression of a moon face).

If a Sheehan syndrome is present - for example, in response to a previous childbirth - the pituitary gland produces too little ACTH. The complaints are usually expressed in sexual aversion, lack of milk injection, increased paleness. Patients with ACTH deficiency often feel tired and severely depressed despite adequate rest and sleep. An ACTH imbalance is difficult to diagnose and will only be detected as part of an extensive blood test.

ACTH is widely used to treat various forms of epilepsy. Patients treated with ACTH are particularly likely to be affected by West Syndrome, which is a special form of epilepsy. It has not yet been possible to adequately explain why mitigating the effects of ACTH, but therapy with ACTH is now standard practice; About 8 out of 10 children are initially seizure-free after the administration of ACTH.

Home remedies ↵ for stress In 65% of treated children seizures occur again after discontinuation of ACTH. Despite the good prognosis, the use of ACTH for the treatment of epilepsy is not uncontroversial, since sometimes severe side effects can occur. The side effects include a general weakening of the immune system, high blood pressure and vomiting, stomach bleeding, heart failure and leukocytosis. Preterm infants are usually unresponsive to treatment with ACTH.

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