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Cushing's Syndrome

What Is Cushing's Syndrome?

Cushing's syndrome is all about the stress hormone cortisol. Your body makes too much of it. The excess cortisol can throw your body's other systems off.

Most cases of Cushing's syndrome can be cured, though it may take some time for your symptoms to ease up.

The condition, also known as hypercortisolism, is more common in women than men. It's most often seen in people ages 25 to 40.

Causes

You can get Cushing's syndrome when there’s too much cortisol in your body for too long. Cortisol comes from your adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys.

The most common cause is related to medications called glucocorticoids, also commonly known as steroids or prednisone.

These prescription steroids are used for conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or after an organ transplant. They are powerful anti-inflammatory medications. Taking too much, for too long, can lead to Cushing's syndrome.

A tumor in your pituitary gland, found at the base of the brain, or a tumor in the adrenal glands, can also prompt your body to make too much cortisol, which can lead to Cushing’s.  

It's not usually a condition that's passed in families. In some rare cases, though, people develop it because a problem in their genes makes them more likely to get tumors on their glands.

Symptoms

Your case might be different than someone else's, but when the disease is full-blown, common symptoms are:

  • Rounded, rosy face
  • Weight gain, especially upper body
  • A fat pad in the upper back or base of the neck
  • Thin arms and legs
  • Acne
  • Being very tired
  • Weak muscles, especially when using your shoulders and hip muscles
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Sleep problems
  • Extra hair growth on your body and face
  • Irregular periods
  • Low sex drive and problems having an erection

Your skin could become thin, heal slowly, and bruise easily. You might get purple or pink stretch marks all over your body, especially your belly, thighs, arms, and chest.

Your bones may get weak. Everyday movements like bending, lifting, or even getting out of a chair can cause backaches or breaks in your ribs or spine.

Children with Cushing's syndrome are usually very heavy, what doctors call obese, and tend to grow slowly.

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