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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Cushing's syndrome


Other Names for this Disease
  • Adrenal cortex adenoma
  • Adrenal hyperfunction resulting from pituitary acth excess
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome
  • Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone syndrome
More Names
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Overview



What is Cushing's syndrome?

What are the signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome?

What causes Cushing's syndrome?

Is Cushing's syndrome inherited?


What is Cushing's syndrome?

Cushing's syndrome is an endocrine disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body's tissues to high levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. Excess cortisol may be the result of long-term use of corticosteroid medications or tumors in the pituitary or adrenal glands. Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include obesity, fatigue, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, easy bruising and stretch marks. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but may include decreasing the dosage of corticosteroids or removing the causative tumor.[1][2]
Last updated: 2/26/2013

What are the signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome?

The symptoms of Cushing's syndrome may include upper body obesity, severe fatigue and muscle weakness, high blood pressure, backache, elevated blood sugar, easy bruising, and bluish-red stretch marks on the skin of the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts. Women with Cushing's syndrome may experience an increase in growth of facial and body hair, and menstrual periods may become irregular or cease.[1][2] Men may have decreased fertility, diminished sexual desire, and/or erectile dysfunction.[2] Neurological symptoms may include difficulties with memory and neuromuscular disorders.[1]
Last updated: 2/26/2013

What causes Cushing's syndrome?

Cushing's syndrome is caused by long-term exposure of the body's tissues to cortisol, a hormone that is naturally produced by the adrenal gland. Exposure to too much cortisol can result from long-term use of synthetic glucocorticoid hormones used to treat inflammatory illnesses. Excess levels of cortisol may also result from pituitary adenomas (benign tumors of the pituitary gland) which secrete increased amounts of adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH), a substance that controls the release of cortisol. Tumors of the adrenal gland or other areas of the body may also cause cortisol imbalances.[1]  
Last updated: 2/26/2013

Is Cushing's syndrome inherited?

Most cases of Cushing's syndrome are not inherited. Rarely, however, Cushing's syndrome results from an inherited tendency to develop tumors of one or more endocrine glands (which release hormones into the bloodstream). Conditions which may be associated with this tendency include:[2]

 
Last updated: 2/26/2013

References
  1. NINDS Cushing's Syndrome Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). October 26, 2010; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cushings/cushings.htm. Accessed 2/26/2013.
  2. Cushing's Syndrome. National Endocrine and Metabolic. April 2012; http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx. Accessed 2/26/2013.