Symptoms and Signs of Cushing's Syndrome

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 1/21/2022

Doctor's Notes on Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing syndrome (also termed Cushing's syndrome) is a disorder of over-administration or overproduction of corticosteroids. Signs and symptoms include unusual weight gain in the face, upper back, neck, and upper torso and skin changes like thinning, purple stretch marks, and easy bruising. Proximal muscle weakness (for example, difficulty climbing stairs), new onset of hypertension, and/or diabetes and other symptoms like depression and cognitive and emotional dysfunction may occur. Also, reduced bone mass, impaired wound healing, irregular periods, and increased hair production in women and decreased libido, infertility, and impotence in men can develop; other changes that can occur may depend on the source and rapidity of the corticosteroid excess. For example, if the pituitary gland is overproducing, headaches, polyuria, nocturia, visual problems, and galactorrhea (in non-pregnant women) may occur while virilization in women and feminization in men may occur with rapid corticosteroid excess happens with an adrenal cancer.

The causes of Cushing syndrome all are due to excess of corticosteroids. The main causes of excess corticosteroids are exogenous administration of them to treat other health problems and endogenous where the body's abnormal tissues (for example, adrenal gland tumors, pituitary tumors, and some lung tumors) make excess amounts of corticosteroids.

What Are the Treatments for Cushing Syndrome?

The key to treatment of Cushing syndrome is to lower the amount of cortisol in the body. Depending on the source of high cortisol, treatments vary from drug reduction to surgery. General treatments are as follows:

  • Reduce corticosteroid use as a medicine (under a doctor's recommendation)
  • Medications to reduce and/or control cortisol production
  • Radiation therapy (for pituitary tumor treatment or another tumor type)
  • Surgery (for example, pituitary tumor removal; may require lifelong cortisol replacement therapy)

Your medical team can recommend the best protocol to use for your individual problem.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.