Cushing's syndrome is a hormonal disorder that occurs when the body tissues are exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol. The adrenal glands produce cortisol (the major corticoid hormone made by the adrenal gland).
Cushing's syndrome occurs when body tissues are exposed to high levels of cortisol for a long time. Cortisol is an important hormone that regulates many body functions, including stress management. A part of the brain known as the hypothalamus sends CRH, a hormone, to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland then produces another hormone called ACTH. The ACTH then stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. The hypothalamus and pituitary monitor blood levels of cortisol. They adjust their hormone release as needed. This maintains a normal balance of cortisol.
Sometimes the cortisol balance in the body is thrown off. The person may have excess cortisol under the following conditions: he or she takes glucocorticoid medicines, such as prednisone, for a long timetumors of the pituitary gland produce excess ACTHtumors outside the pituitary secrete ACTHabnormalities, including tumors, of the adrenal glands cause excess cortisol production
Signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome vary but may include: fragile, thin skin that bruises easilyhigh blood glucoseincreased fat around the neckirritability, anxiety, and depressionmuscle weaknessobesity in the upper bodysevere fatigueWomen with Cushing's syndrome may have excessive hair growth on their faces, necks, trunks, and thighs. They may have absent or irregular menstruation. Men with may have decreased fertility and decreased or absent sexual desire. In children, the syndrome may cause obesity and slow growth rates.
Cushing's syndrome occurs when body tissues are exposed to high levels of cortisol over a long period of time. These high levels may be caused by: certain cancerous or noncancerous tumors of the lung, thyroid, pancreas, or ovary. These tumors produce a form of Cushing's syndrome known as ectopic ACTH syndrome.disorders of the adrenal glandsfamilial Cushing's syndrome, which involves tumors of one or more endocrine glandspituitary adenoma, a noncancerous tumor that causes Cushing's diseaseprolonged use of glucocorticoid medicines, such as prednisonetumors of the adrenal glands, which may be cancerous or noncancerous
Many times, Cushing's syndrome cannot be prevented. Judicious use of glucocorticoid medicines is important. Many times, however, high levels are needed to control diseases.
Diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome begins with a medical history and physical exam.
The healthcare professional may order additional tests, including: blood and urine tests to pinpoint the source of the excess cortisolCT scans and MRIs of various endocrine organsurine tests to measure cortisol excreted in the urine
If Cushing's syndrome is untreated, body tissues continue to be exposed to high cortisol levels. The person may develop the following conditions: diabeteshigh blood pressuremuscle weaknessobesityosteoporosis, or bone thinning
Cushing's syndrome is not contagious and does not put others at risk.
Treatment of Cushing's syndrome varies, depending on the source of the excess cortisol. Treatment options include: chemotherapyimmunotherapymitotane, which keeps cortisol production downradiation therapysurgical removal of adrenal glandssurgical removal of tumors
Surgery may cause bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to anesthesia.
Some individuals may produce less steroid hormones. They may need steroid hormones after treatment to maintain normal levels.
Someone with Cushing's syndrome will have regular visits with the healthcare professional. The healthcare professional may order periodic blood and urine tests to monitor the problem. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.