Cushing syndrome occurs when the body is exposed to high levels of cortisol for long periods of time. Most commonly, it stems from corticosteroid use and is often seen in transplant patients taking medications to prevent organ rejection. Corticosteroids are also prescribed to those with inflammatory diseases. However, the condition also occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. This can happen in relation to athletic training, alcoholism, malnutrition, high stress levels, or any tumor growth or abnormality.
Though less common, there are a couple of other conditions that have been linked to Cushing syndrome. The pituitary gland may grow a tumor, making it produce too much adrenocorticotropic hormone. Ectopic ACTH syndrome causes tumors to form on the pancreas, thymus gland, lungs, and/or thyroid, which can also trigger the condition.
There are several symptoms that may appear when Cushing’s is present, including:
Women might also notice irregular or absent menstruation as well as extra body and facial hair. Men may experience sexual issues such as decreased fertility, erectile dysfunction, and low libido. Though less often seen in children, those who are affected are usually obese and develop physically at a slower rate than their peers.
Increased levels of the cortisol hormone cause Cushing syndrome. This hormone is responsible for regulating stress levels, controlling the skin’s inflammatory responses, and balancing the effects of insulin, among others.
Although beneficial to the body, high levels of the hormone pose medical challenges to the body. Here are some reasons why the body may produce excess amounts of cortisol.
Treatment depends on where the source of the condition is to be found. If Cushing syndrome is linked to steroid use, then a doctor will likely recommend that the patient decrease the frequency or dosage of the drug. In the event of gland problems or tumor growth, surgery can resolve the issue.
There are no known ways of preventing Cushing syndrome. Being aware of the symptoms seems to be the most critical component to identify the condition and begin treatment as soon as possible. However, doctors provide the following pieces of advice to manage the predisposing factors for people without the syndrome and those in the treatment phase.