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Cushing's Syndrome

What is Cushing's Syndrome?

Cushing's syndrome is a hormonal disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body's tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol. Cushing's syndrome is relatively rare. It most commonly affects adults aged 20 to 50.

Cushing's syndrome is also called hypercortisolism.

What Are the Symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome?

The most common symptoms of Cushing's syndrome are:

What Causes Cushing's Syndrome?

Cushing's syndrome occurs when the body's tissues are exposed to excessive levels of cortisol for long periods of time.

Cushing's syndrome may be a result of prescribed glucocorticoid hormones. Glucocorticoid hormones are prescribed to treat asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other inflammatory diseases.

Other causes of Cushing's syndrome are:

  • Overproduction of cortisol by the body
  • Pituitary Adenomas
    • Pituitary adenomas cause most cases of Cushing's syndrome.
    • Pituitary adenomas are benign, or non-cancerous, tumors of the pituitary gland which secrete increased amounts of ACTH.
  • Ectopic ACTH Syndrome
    • Some benign or malignant (cancerous) tumors that arise outside the pituitary can produce ACTH.
  • Adrenal Tumors
    • Adrenal tumors can which release excess cortisol into the blood.
  • Adrenocortical Carcinomas,
    • Cancer cells secrete excess levels of several adrenal cortical hormones.
    • Adrenocortical carcinomas usually cause very high hormone levels and rapid development of symptoms.

Can Cushing's Syndrome be Treated?

Yes. Treatments for Cushing's syndrome are designed to return your body's cortisol production to normal. If left untreated, Cushing's syndrome can eventually lead to death.

The type of treatment used will depend on the specific cause of Cushing's Syndrome. Common types of treatment are: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or the use of cortisol-inhibiting drugs.

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