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Could You Be Pushing Towards Cushing Syndrome?

Could You Be Pushing Towards Cushing Syndrome?

Cushing syndrome and Cushing disease, while rare, have become more well-known with stars like Amy Schumer, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson speaking out about their struggles with the illness, which is a result of the body producing too much of a hormone called cortisol. It’s reported that Cushing syndrome affects 40 to 70 people out of one million each year, but experts believe the condition is underdiagnosed and that many more people suffer from it.

Cortisol is a hormone that the body produces in response to stress, as well as other key bodily functions, such as controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, inflammation and ensures the heart and blood vessels are working properly. This hormonal disorder is rare and get worse over time if left untreated.

Cushing syndrome is often recognizable by a “buffalo hump,” an accumulation of fat at the base of the neck or between the shoulders. The illness mainly affects adults aged 30 to 50 years old, with women three times more likely to have it. Those who are overweight, or who have high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with this syndrome. Underlying causes for the syndrome include chronic use of corticosteroid medications like prednisone, as well as the presence of a pituitary or adrenal tumor. Cushing disease is a specific type of Cushing syndrome that occurs when the body makes too much cortisol because of a pituitary tumor.

Signs of Cushing syndrome or disease can change your appearance and include:

  • Red or round face
  • Rapid weight gain specifically in the abdomen and at the base of the neck
  • Skin ulcers
  • Acne
  • Excessive facial hair in women
  • Bruising of the skin
  • Purple stretch marks on the chest, armpits, and belly

Cushing syndrome or disease can also cause serious complications including:

  • Irritability, depression and anxiety
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Memory loss
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infections
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Amenorrhea, loss of menstrual cycles in women

Diagnosing Cushing syndrome or disease will require a 24-hour urinary test to measure the level of corticosteroid hormones, CT scan, MRI and a dexamethasone suppression test that determines if the body is overproducing cortisol. If so, further tests are needed to determine the cause of the excess hormones.

Many factors will determine treatment, but options focus on lowering the excess levels of steroids in the body. If the disorder is caused by corticosteroid medication used to treat another condition, then the doctor will either reduce the dosage or change the course of the treatment. If a tumor in the adrenal or pituitary gland is found to be the cause of the excess hormone, then the tumor is removed. Additional surgery may be necessary to remove the affected gland. Removal of the one or both adrenal glands will require lifelong treatment to help regulate cortisol and other hormones.

See your doctor is you have any symptoms of Cushing syndrome or disease, if existing symptoms get worse or if new symptoms develop. If left untreated, Cushing syndrome or disease can be life-threatening and lead to serious complications. If caught early and depending on the cause of the syndrome, it can be cured for the majority of those diagnosed.