What is Cushing's syndrome?
Cushing's syndrome is a rare problem that happens when you have too much of the hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol is especially important in controlling blood pressure and metabolism. But it affects almost every area of your body.
Normally, your body keeps the level of cortisol in balance through a complex system that involves three glands.
If something upsets this system, your cortisol level can get too high. If it's high for too long, it can cause symptoms and can lead to serious problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and osteoporosis.
Another name for Cushing's syndrome is hypercortisolism.
What causes Cushing's syndrome?
The most common cause is taking corticosteroid medicines, such as prednisone, for a long time. These medicines act like cortisol in your body. They are used to treat many diseases, including lupus, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also used after an organ transplant.
You can also get Cushing's syndrome because your body makes too much cortisol. This can happen if you have:
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms vary and often appear slowly over time. You may have:
How is Cushing's syndrome diagnosed?
Cushing's syndrome can be hard to diagnose because many things can make your cortisol level higher than normal. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in hormone disorders (endocrinologist) to diagnose or treat Cushing's syndrome.
To find out if you have Cushing's syndrome, a doctor will:
A doctor can usually find out from these exams if corticosteroid medicine is causing the problem.
If you don't take corticosteroid medicine or your doctor thinks something other than medicine is causing your symptoms, you may have tests, such as:
How is it treated?
Cushing's syndrome can lead to serious health problems, so it's important to start treatment right away. Treatment can often cure Cushing's syndrome.
If long-term use of corticosteroid medicine is the cause:
If a pituitary tumor is the cause:
If an adrenal tumor is the cause:
If a tumor of the lungs or another organ is the cause, the tumor will be removed or treated with radiation or medicines.
What changes can you make to help with Cushing's syndrome?
There are many things you can do to prevent weight gain, strengthen your muscles and bones, and avoid health problems from Cushing's syndrome.
Eat a healthy diet
Take good care of yourself
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Women's Health Resources
- Early Puberty? When to See a Doctor
- What Is Inherited Lipodystrophy?
- Are We Close to a Cure for Cancer?