WHAT ARE HORMONES?
INSULIN: Insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to eating or elevated blood sugar. It is deficient in those with Type 1 Diabetes and present at insufficient levels in those with Type 2 Diabetes. The natural evolution of Type 2 Diabetes causes insulin levels to fall from high levels to low levels over a course of years. Thus insulin levels in persons with type 1 and type 2 diabetes overlap significantly, and insulin levels are not very useful in determining type 1 vs type 2. Insulin levels vary widely from person to person depending upon an individuals insulin sensitivity (or conversely, their insulin resistance.)
Insulin levels also vary widely according to when the last meal occurred. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for coronary disease, thus assessing an individual's insulin resistance may have some value using the HOMA-IR calculation. Insulin levels are also elevated in patients with true hypoglycemia, however the interpretation of these levels is difficult. Insulin levels, when measured by itself at a random time is rarely useful.
C-peptide: This is a fragment cleaved off of the precursor of insulin (pro-insulin) when insulin is manufactured in the pancreas. C-peptide levels usually correlate with the insulin levels, except when people take insulin injections. When a patient is hypoglycemic, this test may be useful to determine whether high insulin levels are due to excessive pancreatic release of insulin, or from an injection of insulin.
Estradiol: This is the most commonly measured type of estrogen measured. In women it varies according to their age, and whether they are having normal menstrual cycles. Hormone levels are also changed when taking birth control pills or estrogen replacement.
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