(Cushing Disease; Hypercortisolism)
Cushing syndrome is a hormone disorder. Cortisol, in normal doses, helps the body manage stress and infection. However, high levels over a long period of time can cause several health problems.
Prolonged or excess exposure to cortisol may be caused by:
- Long-term use of corticosteroid hormones, such as cortisone or prednisone
- Excess production of cortisol by:
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Factors that may increase your chance of Cushing syndrome include using corticodsteroids to treat diseases, such as:
Cushing syndrome may cause:
- Weight gain of the upper body and trunk
- Rounded face
- Severe fatigue or muscle weakness
- Easily bruised, thinner skin
- Purple stretch marks
- Excess hair growth or acne in women
- Menstrual disorders, especially infrequent or absent periods
- Reduced fertility and interest in sex
- Personality changes or mood swings
- Bone loss— osteoporosis
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may be done to determine the level of cortisol and find a cause.
Blood tests, urine tests, and saliva tests may be done.
Imaging tests evaluate the pituitary and adrenal glands, and other internal structures. These may include:
Treatment of Cushing syndrome depends on the cause. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
- Gradual withdrawal of cortisone-type drugs under close medical supervision
- Surgical removal of tumor
- Surgical removal of part, all, or both adrenal glands
- Radiation therapy for some persistent tumors
- Drugs that decrease cortisol production or block the functioning of other adrenal products
Work with your doctor to keep your use of corticosteroid drugs to a minimum.
Cushing's Support and Research Foundation
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
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Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Alan Drabkin, MD Last Updated: 2/17/2016