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(Cushing's Disease; Hypercortisolism)
by Michelle Badash, MS
Cushing's 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.
Cushing's syndrome is caused by extended exposure to a hormone called cortisol. Prolonged or excess exposure to cortisol may be caused by:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your chance of Cushing's syndrome include:
Cushing's syndrome may cause:
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.
Tests for cortisol levels may include:
Tests to determine the cause of Cushing's syndrome may include:
Imaging tests evaluate the pituitary and adrenal glands, and other internal structures. These may include:
Treatment of Cushing's syndrome depends on the cause. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
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
Arnaldi G, Angeli A, Atkinson AB, et al. Diagnosis and complications of Cushing’s syndrome: a consensus statement. J Clin Endocrinolo Metabo. 2003;88(12):5593-5602.
Cushing disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T127665/Cushing-disease. Updated July 31, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Cushing's syndrome. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 2012. Accessed February 17, 2016.
Diez JJ, Iglesias P. Pharmacological therapy of Cushing’s syndrome: drugs and indications. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2007;7(5):467-480.
Kirk LF Jr, Hash RB, Katner HP, Jones T. Cushing's disease: clinical manifestations and diagnostic evaluation. Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(5):1119-1127.
Tritos NA, Biller BM, Swearingen B. Management of Cushing disease. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2011;7(5):279-289.
Makras P, Toloumis G, Papadogias D, Kaltsas GA, Besser M. The diagnosis and differential diagnosis of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome. Hormones. 2006;5(4):231-250.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kim Carmichael, MD
Last Updated: 2/17/2016
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