How is Cushing's syndrome diagnosed?
Cushing's syndrome can be hard to diagnose because many things can make your cortisol level higher than normal. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in hormone disorders (endocrinologist) to diagnose or treat Cushing's syndrome.
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.