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Endocrine glands
Endocrine glands


Definition:

Cushing syndrome is a disease that occurs when your body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. It may also occur if you take too much cortisol or other steroid hormones.

See also:



Alternative Names:

Hypercortisolism



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The most common cause of Cushing syndrome is side effects from taking anti-inflammatory steroid medications for conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis .

The second most common cause is Cushing's disease, which occurs when the pituitary gland makes too much of the hormone ACTH . ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

Cushing's disease affects women more often than men.

Cushing syndrome can also be caused by the following:



Symptoms:

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:



Signs and tests:

Blood sugar and white blood cell counts may be high. Potassium level may be low.

Laboratory tests are done to confirm high cortisol level . These include:

Tests to determine the cause may include:



Treatment:

Treatment depends upon the cause.

Cushing syndrome caused by corticosteroid use:

  • Slowly decrease the drug dose (if possible) under medical supervision.

Cushing syndrome caused by a pituitary tumor or tumor that releases ACTH:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Radiation after removal of a pituitary tumor (in some cases)
  • Hydrocortisone (cortisol) replacement therapy (after surgery, and sometimes continued throughout the patient's life)

Cushing syndrome due to an adrenal tumor:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • If the tumor cannot be removed, medications to help block the release of cortisol


Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Removing the tumor may lead to full recovery, but there is a chance that the condition will return.

Survival for people with ectopic tumors depends on the tumor type. Untreated, Cushing syndrome can be life-threatening.



Complications:

Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of Cushing syndrome.



References:

Arnaldi G, Angeli A, Atkinson AB, et al. Diagnosis and complications of Cushing's syndrome: A consensus statement. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88:5595-5602.




Review Date: 3/18/2008
Reviewed By: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Phone: (603) 742-5252
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