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Cushing's Syndrome/Disease

What is Cushing's syndrome?

Cushing's syndrome is the result of the excessive production of corticosteroids by the adrenal glands. An overproduction of corticotropin — the hormone that controls the adrenal gland — by the pituitary gland, which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, may be one cause of Cushing's disease. In addition, certain lung cancers and other tumors outside the pituitary gland may produce corticotropins. Other causes include benign or cancerous tumors on the adrenal glands.

What are the symptoms of Cushing's syndrome?

The following are the most common symptoms of Cushing's syndrome. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Upper body obesity
  • Round face
  • Increased fat around neck
  • Thinning arms and legs
  • Fragile and thin skin
  • Stretch marks on abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, and breasts
  • Bone and muscle weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Excess hair growth in women
  • Irregular or stopped menstrual cycles in women
  • Reduced sex drive and fertility in men

The symptoms of Cushing's syndrome may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is Cushing's syndrome diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, diagnostic procedures for Cushing's syndrome may include:

  • X-rays to locate any tumors
  • 24-hour urinary test to measure for corticosteroid hormones
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) – to detect any abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary x-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Dexamethasone suppression test – to differentiate whether the excess production of corticotropins are from the pituitary gland or tumors elsewhere
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation test – to differentiate whether the cause is a pituitary tumor or an adrenal tumor
  • Other laboratory tests

Treatment for Cushing's syndrome:

Treatment for Cushing's syndrome depends on its cause. Surgery may be needed to remove the tumor or the pituitary or adrenal glands. Other treatment may include radiation, chemotherapy, and use of certain hormone-inhibiting drugs.

For more information, contact the Pituitary Center.

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