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Cushing's Syndrome

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How is Cushing's syndrome diagnosed? continued...

To find out if you have Cushing's syndrome, a doctor will:

  • Ask questions about the medicines you take, your symptoms, and, if you are a woman, your periods.
  • Take your blood pressure, look for skin changes, and check for changes in your weight and for any signs of cancer.

A doctor can usually find out from these exams if corticosteroid medicine is causing the problem.

If you don't take corticosteroid medicine or your doctor thinks something other than medicine is causing your symptoms, you may have tests, such as:

  • Tests to check the level of cortisol and other hormones in your blood and urine.
  • A test to measure cortisol in your saliva in the late evening, when the level normally drops.
  • A CT scan or MRI to look for a tumor on your adrenal glands, pituitary gland, or another organ.

How is it treated?

Cushing's syndrome can lead to serious health problems, so it's important to start treatment right away. Treatment can often cure Cushing's syndrome.

If long-term use of corticosteroid medicine is the cause:

  • Your doctor will help you lower your dose or gradually stop taking it. It may take a while for the symptoms to go away.
  • Do not stop taking steroid medicine on your own. That can be very dangerous. Your doctor will help you change your medicine or lower the dose slowly.

If a pituitary tumor is the cause:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor offers the best chance for recovery. This surgery requires great skill and should be done at a major medical center where doctors specialize in pituitary surgery.
  • Medicine may be tried if surgery isn't possible or hasn't worked.
  • Surgery to remove the adrenal glands may be done if medicine doesn't work.

If an adrenal tumor is the cause:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor is usually done if the tumor is not cancer (benign). If the tumor is cancer, the whole gland is removed.
  • Medicine may be tried if surgery isn't an option.

If a tumor of the lungs or another organ is the cause, the tumor will be removed or treated with radiation or medicines.

What changes can you make to help with Cushing's syndrome?

There are many things you can do to prevent weight gain, strengthen your muscles and bones, and avoid health problems from Cushing's syndrome.

Eat a healthy diet

  • Choose a variety of low-calorie foods that are high in protein and calcium. This can help prevent muscle and bone loss caused by high cortisol levels.
  • Take calcium and vitamin D supplements to decrease bone loss. Ask your doctor whether you need medicine to help slow bone loss.
  • Limit salt (sodium) in your diet. This is especially important if you have high blood pressure.

Take good care of yourself

  • Get regular exercise. Weight-bearing exercise can help keep your bones and muscles strong. Aerobic exercise can help prevent weight gain. Talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program.
  • Avoid falls, which can lead to broken bones and other injuries. Remove loose rugs and other tripping hazards from your home.
  • Get regular eye exams to check for glaucoma and cataracts.
  • See your doctor regularly to watch for other problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 25, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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