- by Medikoe Health Expert
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- Feb 11 2017
Cushing syndrome, also known as hypercortisolism is a condition that occurs due to exposure to high cortisol levels for an extended period of time. Cushing syndrome is a rare condition and is mostly caused due to steroid drugs, but can also occur due to overproduction of cortisol. Most cases of Cushing syndrome are curable.
Cushing syndrome occurs when there is an excess amount of cortisol in the body for too long. Some of the reasons it may happen are:
Steroid medications are one of the leading cause of this. These are powerful anti-inflammatory medications used to treat conditions like asthma, lupus etc. and taking too much of these medications for a long period of time may lead to Cushing syndrome.
Tumor in the pituitary gland can also cause over secretion of cortisol.
Similarly, a tumor in the adrenal glands can also cause over secretion of cortisol.
Though the condition is not passed on genetically, in some cases, a family history of Cushing syndrome increases the risk.
The symptoms slightly vary from one person to another. Some of the most commonly observed symptoms of Cushing syndrome are:
A rounded face
Weight gain and fatty deposit in the upper back, face, and between shoulders
Stretch marks on abdomen, thighs, arms etc.
Thinning and fragile skin that bruises easily
Slow healing of cuts or infections
Getting tired easily
Development of acne
Development of kidney stones
Loss of emotional control
Impaired growth in children
Besides, there are a few symptoms particular to men and women.
Symptoms specific to men:
Loss of libido
Symptoms specific to women:
Thicker and more visible body and facial hair
If the condition is left untreated some serious complications like the following may develop:
Osteoporosis, leading to bone loss and frequent fractures
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Loss of muscle mass and strength
For the diagnosis of Cushing syndrome, the doctor will carefully examine the symptoms and ask about your mental and emotional health. If the doctor suspects Cushing syndrome, the following diagnostic tests may be recommended:
Dexamethasone suppression test: a low dose steroid pill is taken at night and blood cortisol levels are measured in the morning.
Late-night salivary cortisol level: the cortisol levels are measured in the saliva in the night time.
24 hour urinary test: in this test, your urine is collected for a period of 24 hours to check the production of cortisol.
The doctor may also recommend imaging tests like an MRI scan or a CT scan. These tests provide detailed images of your adrenaline gland and help in detecting abnormalities like tumors.
Petrosal sinus sampling: this test helps determine if the cause of Cushing syndrome is in the pituitary gland or someplace else.
The treatment is aimed at reducing the cortisol levels in the body. The exact form of treatment depends on the cause of Cushing syndrome and other factors like health and age of patient etc. Some commonly adopted treatment procedures are:
Limiting corticosteroid use: if the cause of Cushing syndrome is corticosteroid drugs, then one of the first and foremost things to do is to limit its use. The dosage of these drugs is slowly reduced and over a period of time, the body’s cortisol levels resume to normal.
In cases of tumors, surgical removal is always a preferred option. The doctor may remove the tumor along with some of the surrounding tissue. The doctor may prescribe cortisol replacement medications to provide the body with the correct amount of cortisol.
Radiation therapy is also an option in case the condition is caused due to a tumor.
The doctor may also prescribe medications for controlling cortisol production.
In some rare cases, the doctor may remove the adrenal gland to cure the condition. In such cases, lifelong cortisol replacement medications are needed.
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