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Cushing's syndrome: A look into the causes, symptoms and more

  • Posted on- Aug 25, 2015
  • 211 Views

When our body produces extreme levels of cortisol hormone over a period of time, the resultant effect is Cushing syndrome. High levels of cortisol hormone may be due to intake of oral corticosteroid medication. The condition can also happen when your body makes too much cortisol.

Excess cortisol production portray some signs such as a hump between shoulders, pink or purple stretch marks on the skin, a rounded face, etc. Cushing syndrome can also lead to bone loss, occasional diabetes and high blood pressure.

Symptoms of Cushing syndrome

Cushing syndrome portrays different signs and symptoms. Some of them are:
  • Increase in weight and fatty tissue deposits in the face, between the shoulders and around the midsection
  • Purple stretch marks on arms, thighs, abdomen and breast skin
  • The skin becomes fragile bruises easily
  • Acne

Women with Cushing's syndrome may experience thicker facial or body hair along with absent or abnormal monthly periods.

Men with Cushing syndrome may experience decreased libido, fertility along with erectile dysfunction.

Other symptoms include:

Treatments for Cushing's syndrome

Treatment options for Cushing syndrome include:
  1. Lowering corticosteroid intake: Cushing syndrome is the result of continuous corticosteroid medication use. However, your endocrinologist may be able to keep the symptoms of Cushing syndrome in check by subsequently lowering the dosage of the drug. He will also keep an account of your chronic illness while reducing the drug dose. He may prescribe non-corticosteroid drugs which will reduce or eliminate the use of corticosteroids. Stopping corticosteroids on your own can worsen cortisol levels. Do so under your endocrinologist’s supervision.
  2. Surgery: If your endocrinologist suspects a tumor behind Cushing syndrome, he may refer you to a neurosurgeon, who will surgically remove it. The surgeon will use standard or less-invasive techniques to remove the tumor. Post surgery you’ll need cortisol replacement medications to produce the right amount of cortisol. After a careful monitoring, your endocrinologist will stop the medicines.
  3. Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is used when the surgeon is unable to completely remove the tumor. The therapy is performed in affiliation with the surgery. It is beneficial for patients who don’t qualify for the operation.
  4. Medications: Medication is the other option when surgery and radiation fail. Doctors suggest medications before surgery to improve the symptoms and reduce surgical risk. Medications to control extensive making of cortisol include metyrapone, ketoconazole and mitotane.

If every option fails, your endocrinologist may suggest surgical removal of the adrenal glands. This will permanently cure the Cushing syndrome but your ACTH levels will remain high causing skin pigmentation.

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