Cushing's syndrome: Introduction
Cushing's syndrome is a rare disorder that results from abnormally high levels of the hormone cortisol in the blood. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and is involved in the stress and anxiety response, in metabolism, and in regulating blood pressure, among other functions. It is commonly known as the "stress hormone".
High levels of cortisol can impair the body's hormonal systems and result in a variety of effects, including weight gain and fatigue, and serious complications, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension.
Cushing's syndrome, also called hypercortisolism, is most common in young to middle-aged women. It can develop due to factors from inside or outside the body. Most commonly, it is caused by long-term use of synthetic corticosteroid hormone drugs that are used to treat inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. More rarely, Cushing's syndrome can also be caused by processes inside the body, such as when the adrenal glands produce too much corticosteroid hormones due to an adrenal tumor. A pituitary tumor in the brain can also be an underlying cause of Cushing's syndrome.
The symptoms of Cushing's syndrome can vary between individuals and often develop slowly. Symptoms frequently include a moon-faced appearance and upper body obesity. Complications of untreated Cushing's syndrome can be serious and include symptoms such as hyperglycemia and hypertension. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of Cushing's syndrome.
Making a diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms and medications, and completing a physical examination. Diagnosis is usually based on this evaluation and the results of blood and urine tests that measure cortisol levels. A special 24-hour urine sample may be tested to determine the functioning of the pituitary gland if a pituitary tumor is suspected as a cause of Cushing's syndrome. Further testing may include imaging tests, such as CT scan or MRI of the brain, to look for a pituitary tumor.
Other tests may be performed to check for potential complications of untreated Cushing's syndrome, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. These can include various blood glucose and diabetes tests and bone density testing.
It is possible that a diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome can be missed or delayed because the symptoms generally progress gradually. Early symptoms may be assumed to be associated with other conditions, such as aging or stress. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of Cushing's syndrome.
Cushing's syndrome can usually be effectively treated. Treatment varies depending on the cause and may include adjusting medications, surgery, radiation therapy, and other medications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of Cushing's syndrome. ...more »
Cushing's syndrome is a disorder of the adrenal glands leading to excess cortisol secretion.
This means that there is too much cortisol hormone in the blood.
It can be caused by an adrenal gland failure,
or it can result from a pituitary tumor or other tumor
that secretes ACTH which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to over-produce cortisol. ...more »
Cushing's syndrome: Symptoms
At the onset of Cushing's syndrome, symptoms can be mild and develop slowly. They can also vary between individuals. A classic symptom is the develoment of a round, moon-shaped face. Symptoms may also include upper body obesity, fatigue, muscle weakness, back pain, easy bruising, thinning of the skin, memory problems, and the development of a pad of fat between the shoulder blades. ...more symptoms »
Cushing's syndrome: Treatments
Treatment of Cushing's syndrome varies depending on the cause. Many cases are caused by long-term use of corticosteroid hormone medications for treating inflammatory conditions, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. In these cases, a physician may adjust the dosage of the medication and/or prescribe a different drug. It can be dangerous to ...more treatments »
Cushing's syndrome: Misdiagnosis
A diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome may be delayed or missed because some symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain, memory problems, and emotional changes can be ambiguous and/or mild. These symptoms can be easily attributed to other conditions, such as aging, lack of exercise, and perimenopause. If you experience these symptoms or are taking corticosteroid medications, ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome
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symptoms of Cushing's syndrome
Treatments for Cushing's syndrome
- Tumor treatments - various treatments aim at treating the underlying tumor causing the disease:
- Transsphenoidal adenomectomy - remove pituitary tumor
- Pituitary gland irradiation
- more treatments...»
See full list of 15
treatments for Cushing's syndrome
Home Diagnostic Testing
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Wrongly Diagnosed with Cushing's syndrome?
Cushing's syndrome: Related Patient Stories
Cushing's syndrome: Deaths
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Types of Cushing's syndrome
Read more about Types of Cushing's syndrome
Diagnostic Tests for Cushing's syndrome
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diagnostic tests for Cushing's syndrome
Cushing's syndrome: Complications
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Causes of Cushing's syndrome
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causes of Cushing's syndrome
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Disease Topics Related To Cushing's syndrome
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Misdiagnosis and Cushing's syndrome
Cushing's disease can be mistaken for depression: Cushing's disease (or similarly Cushing's syndrome) is a possible misdiagnosis for a person
diagnosed with depression.
It is an...read more »
Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps,
particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes....read more »
Pituitary conditions often undiagnosed cause of symptoms: There are a variety of symptoms
that can be caused by a pituitary disorder (see symptoms of pituitary disorders).
For example, fatigue, ...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Cushing's syndrome
Latest Treatments for Cushing's syndrome
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latest treatments for Cushing's syndrome
Evidence Based Medicine Research for Cushing's syndrome
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Cushing's syndrome: Animations
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Prognosis for Cushing's syndrome
Prognosis for Cushing's syndrome:
Many cases can be cured. Results depend on the underlying cause and severity of the problem.
More about prognosis of Cushing's syndrome
Research about Cushing's syndrome
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Clinical Trials for Cushing's syndrome
The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally
and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.
Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Cushing's syndrome include:
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Clinical Trials for Cushing's syndrome
Statistics for Cushing's syndrome
Cushing's syndrome: Broader Related Topics
Types of Cushing's syndrome
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Article Excerpts about Cushing's syndrome
Cushing's Syndrome: NIDDK (Excerpt)
Cushing's syndrome is a hormonal disorder caused
by prolonged exposure of the body's tissues to high levels of the hormone
cortisol. Sometimes called "hypercortisolism,"
it is relatively rare and
most commonly affects adults aged 20 to 50. An estimated 10 to 15 of every
million people are affected each year.
(Source: excerpt from Cushing's Syndrome: NIDDK)
NINDS Cushing's Syndrome Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)
Cushing's syndrome, also called hypercortisolism, is a
rare endocrine disorder characterized by a variety of symptoms and
(Source: excerpt from NINDS Cushing's Syndrome Information Page: NINDS)
Definitions of Cushing's syndrome:
A condition caused by prolonged exposure to excess levels of cortisol (HYDROCORTISONE) or other GLUCOCORTICOIDS from endogenous or exogenous sources. It is characterized by upper body OBESITY; OSTEOPOROSIS; HYPERTENSION; DIABETES MELLITUS; HIRSUTISM; AMENORRHEA; and excess body fluid. Endogenous Cushing syndrome or spontaneous hypercortisolism is divided into two groups, those due to an excess of ADRENOCORTICOTROPIN and those that are ACTH-independent.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
A glandular disorder caused by excessive cortisol
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Cushing's syndrome is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of
Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH). This means that Cushing's syndrome, or a subtype of Cushing's syndrome,
affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Ophanet, a consortium of European partners,
currently defines a condition rare when it affects 1 person per 2,000.
They list Cushing's syndrome as a "rare disease".
Source - Orphanet
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