If people tell you that your face looks like a moon, they may not be joking. Look at the mirror. If you see that your face has swollen into a rounded shape, it’s possible that you have moon facies or moon face. It will make you feel more self-conscious but thankfully, it’s nothing serious.
This condition occurs when there is excess fat buildup on the sides of the face. The primary symptom of moon facies is obviously a face that has become round, puffy or full. It’s not the ordinary kind of round-shaped face as this one will be so round with fat buildup that your ears are hardly visible. There would also be fat deposits in the sides of the skull, making the face appear even rounder.
Moon facies is caused by excessive release of some hormones such as cortisol. This process is known as hyperadrenocorticalism or hypercortisolism. The adrenal glands, which are those triangle-shaped glands on top of the kidneys, are responsible for releasing the hormone cortisol.
It is often linked to Cushing’s syndrome, which is the reason moon facies is sometimes referred to as Cushingoid appearance. Cushing’s syndrome takes place when the body is exposed to high levels of cortisol for a long time. Common signs and symptoms of this ailment include weight gain and fatty deposits in the face and between shoulders, purple stretch marks on abdomen, thighs, breasts and arms, thinning skin, slow healing of cuts or infections, and acne.
Women who have Cushing’s syndrome may have thicker body and facial hair and irregular or absent menstrual period. Men on the other hand may experience drop in libido, decreased fertility, and erectile dysfunction. Other signs and symptoms are fatigue, muscle weakness, depression, anxiety, irritability, loss of emotional control, cognitive struggle, heightened blood pressure, headache, and bone loss.
Other than Cushing’s syndrome, there are other conditions linked to moon facies. These include the following:
Increased release of ACTH from the pituitary gland that makes the adrenal gland produce more cortisol
Nonpituitary tumors such as those in the thymus, lung, or pancreas that trigger releases of high amounts of ACTH
Benign tumors in the adrenal gland
Long-term usage of steroid medications that are typically used for treating conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases
In order to confirm that the moon facies is caused by abnormal levels of cortisol in the body, your doctor will perform tests on your urine and blood sample. To find out what’s causing the release of high levels of cortisol, MRI or CT scan may be needed.
Moon facies will then be treated according to the cause. If it is brought about by Cushing’s syndrome, surgical removal of the tumor would be in order. For some patients, medications, radiation therapy and physical therapy will be recommended.