Cushing Syndrome, also called Hypercortisolism, is a condition when there is too much cortisol hormone in the body. Cortisol hormone is produced by the outer part of the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidney. The purpose of the cortisol is to regulate the levels of blood sugar and blood pressure as well as to help the body respond well to stress. Another hormone that comes by the name adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) is the one actually responsible for controlling the amount of cortisol produced. This one is made in the pituitary gland. In Cushing Syndrome, the ACTH fails to control the amount of cortisol produced. This condition typically affects people who are between the ages of 20 and 50 years old. In most cases, the condition can be treated.
The foremost cause of this condition is a disease in the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands that grow larger than normal or produce too many cells can lead to this disease. Lung cancer can also hinder the proper functioning of the ACTH, causing the adrenal gland to produce too much of the hormone. Another possible cause is a tumor in the pituitary gland. If there are small, benign tumors in the pituitary gland, the gland will produce too much ACTH, this will lead to larger production of cortisol. Moreover, long-term usage of steroid medicine like prednisone has also been said to cause this condition.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of Cushing Syndrome include increased fat around the neck, puffiness and redness of face, increased fat in the trunk area while the arms and legs appear to be thinning, and purple or pink stretch marks on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts. Aside from this, a person with this syndrome may also experience extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, excess hair growth on the face, chest, neck, abdomen and thighs especially for women, irregular menstrual cycles for women, erectile dysfunction in men, mood swings, depression, irritability, anxiety and low libido.
Diagnosis can be through one or more of tests such as 24-hour urinary free cortisol level test that measures the amount of cortisol in your urine in a day, blood tests, imaging tests, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging test and late night salivary cortisol test.
Treatment varies according to the cause of excessive production of cortisol. Surgery may be used to remove the tumor that causes the increased production of cortisol. Another treatment that may be prescribed is chemotherapy, which is also used to treat cancer. This is employed to kill the tumor cells or shrink cancer-containing lymph nodes. Cortisol-inhibiting medicines may also be given. These include adrenal-acting inhibitors and glucocorticoid antagonist. In some cases, radiation is also used to kill the cancer and prevent it from spreading.