What is Cushing's syndrome?
Cushing's syndrome is a
rare hormonal problem. It happens when there is too much of the
hormone cortisol in your body.
cortisol levels increase through a chain reaction of hormones:
- First, the hypothalamus in the brain makes a hormone called CRH
- Then, CRH tells the pituitary
gland to make another hormone called ACTH
- ACTH then
adrenal glands to make cortisol. Cortisol affects
almost every area of the body. It is especially important in regulating blood
But if your body makes too much cortisol-or if you take
certain medicines that act like cortisol-you may start to have symptoms.
Cushing's syndrome may cause weight gain, skin changes, and fatigue. It can
lead to serious problems, such as
high blood pressure,
osteoporosis. If not treated, it can also cause
Another name for Cushing’s syndrome is
What causes Cushing's syndrome?
may be caused by:
- Steroid medicine. This medicine
is used to treat
rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases that cause
inflammation. It may also be used after an organ transplant. Long-term use of
this medicine is the most common cause of Cushing's syndrome.
- Tumors on the pituitary gland. This is called Cushing's
disease. It’s the second most common cause of Cushing's syndrome. These tumors
are not cancer.
- Tumors on the adrenal glands, or in the lung or pancreas. Sometimes these tumors are cancer.
What are the symptoms?
around the waist-is the most common symptom.
almost all body systems, so it can cause many other symptoms. These other
symptoms often appear slowly over time and may include:
- Weak muscles.
- Changes in the
skin, such as bruising,
acne, and dark purple-red stretch marks on the
- Changes in mood. You may feel irritable, anxious, or
- Extra fat on the back of the neck and upper
- Loss of muscle
- Hair growth that is not
normal (such as facial hair in women).
- High blood pressure and
high blood sugar levels.
Sometimes alcoholism, depression,
panic attacks, obesity, or other problems can cause
symptoms like these. Some treatments for
HIV can also cause similar symptoms. This is called
pseudo-Cushing's syndrome. In these cases, symptoms tend to stop as soon as the
problems are treated.
How is Cushing's syndrome diagnosed?
will use your medical history, a physical exam, and lab tests to see if you
have Cushing's syndrome. During the physical exam, he or she will look for
signs of the problem. The medical history includes questions about your
symptoms, what medicines you take, and-if you are a woman-whether your periods
If your doctor thinks you may have Cushing's
syndrome, you will have lab tests to check your cortisol levels. These tests
can measure cortisol in your blood, urine, or saliva. More tests may be needed
to find the cause of high cortisol levels.
How is it treated?