Cushing syndrome is a hormonal disorder that occurs when your body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that plays a vital role in the body’s stress response and helps regulate blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and metabolism. When cortisol levels are too high, it can lead to various symptoms. Cushing syndrome can be caused by many different conditions, including stress, certain medications, or an underlying adrenal gland disorder.
Causes of Cushing Syndrome
There are several possible causes of Cushing Syndrome, including:
Use of certain medications
In most cases, Cushing syndrome is caused by corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Corticosteroids are often used to treat various conditions, such as asthma, arthritis, and eczema. They can also be used to suppress the immune system in people who have had an organ transplant.
It’s also possible to develop Cushing syndrome from injectable corticosteroids such as repeated injections for joint pain, back pain and bursitis. Inhaled steroid medicines for asthma and steroid skin creams used for skin disorders are generally less likely to cause Cushing syndrome than oral corticosteroids. However, these medications can cause Cushing syndrome in some individuals, especially if taken in high doses.
A tumour on the glands
Cushing syndrome can also be caused by a tumour on the adrenal gland, pituitary gland, or elsewhere in the body that produces cortisol. This is known as an ACTH-secreting tumour. These tumours, which can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), are primarily found in the pancreas, lungs, thyroid or thymus gland.
Excess production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) – In some cases, Cushing syndrome is caused by excess production of ACTH by the pituitary gland. This is known as Cushing disease. It occurs more often in women and is the most common form of endogenous Cushing syndrome.
Symptoms of Cushing Syndrome
The symptoms and signs of Cushing syndrome may vary based on excess cortisol levels.
Common symptoms of Cushing syndrome
- Pink or purple stretch marks on the skin of the thighs, arms, abdomen and breasts
- Excess weight gain and fatty tissue deposits, particularly around the mid-section and upper back, in the face, and between the shoulders
- Slow healing of cuts, insect bites and infections
- Thinning, fragile skin that is easily bruised
Symptoms in women with Cushing syndrome
- Thicker or more visible facial and body hair, als0 known as Hirsutism
- Sporadic or absent menstrual periods
Symptoms in men with Cushing syndrome
- Reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low fertility
Other symptoms of Cushing syndrome
- Severe fatigue
- Depression, anxiety and irritability
- Weakness in muscles
- Darkening of skin
- Loss of emotional control
- Bone loss, leading to fractures over time
- Cognitive difficulties
- High blood pressure
- Impaired growth in children
Diagnosis of Cushing Syndrome
Cushing syndrome is diagnosed based on medical history, physical examination, and various tests. Treatment depends on the cause but may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or medication. Most people with Cushing syndrome can lead normal, healthy lives with treatment.
If you think you or someone you know may have Cushing syndrome, it’s crucial to see a doctor for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital for preventing serious complications.
SeekMed houses some of the best endocrinologists in India who assist you with your diagnosis and help you choose appropriate treatment based on your condition and symptoms.