The diseases associated with ACTH are almost all related to a deficiency or overproduction of the hormone. Various tumours in the pituitary gland (the brain‘s overriding control centre) or in the hypothalamus (hormonal gland) can increase or decrease the production of ACTH. The hormone-producing cells in a tumour can no longer be influenced by the negative feedback and the hormone levels continue to increase.
Increased production can lead to Cushing’s disease, diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure. Lowered production leads to adrenal cortex hypofunction. Most symptoms are due to cortisol deficiency, but the adrenal cortex also produces other hormones, such as sex hormones and hormones for the body’s salt and water balance.
ACTH therefore affects the whole body via the adrenal gland and can trigger a variety of diseases. Various other diseases can also be the cause of reduced ACTH production. These include tuberculosis, Waterhouse Friedrichsen syndrome, HIV and many other diseases.
Although the main factor in the release of ACTH is CRH from the hypothalamus (the brain‘s superior control centre), there are other factors. During prolonged stress, the production of ACTH increases significantly. The permanently elevated levels lead via the cortisol to an increased susceptibility to infection and fatigue.
This is one of the reasons why chronic stress can make you ill. During short-term stress, ACTH is hardly changed and there is more likely to be a release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are only short-acting stress hormones. .