What is Cushing's Syndrome?

Basil Manning

Cushing's Syndrome is a rare disease that occurs as a result of having high levels of the hormone cortisol in the body. This syndrome produces symptoms such as weight gain, muscle weakness and high blood pressure and its treatment is essential so that the consequences of its conditions do not become dangerous. To understand this disorder, we must first delve into the hormone that causes it: cortisol.


  • What is cortisol?
  • Causes of Cushing's syndrome
  • Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome
  • Diagnosis and treatment of Cushing's syndrome
    • Links of interest

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone produced in the adrenal glands that increases the level of glucose in the blood, participates in the functioning of the immune system and blood pressure. In addition, among other things, it helps to control stress levels, being secreted mostly when the body prepares to carry out an action that requires greater consumption of glucose, which is why this hormone is usually considered the stress hormone.

However, an excess of cortisol can cause the syndrome we are talking about today, also known as hypercortisolism..

Causes of Cushing's syndrome

Excess cortisol can be caused by different causes. One of them may be the use of corticosteroid medications for a long time. These drugs, such as prednisone, are often used to treat conditions with inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Cushing's syndrome can also be caused by medications indicated after a surgical transplant, in the prevention against rejection of a transplanted organ..

Another cause that can generate this syndrome can be an overproduction of cortisol created by the body itself. This can be caused by diseases of the adrenal glands, as well as by the growth of a tumor in these glands, which makes their function not correct. There may also be a tumor or other problem in the pituitary gland that generates adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to generate cortisol.

This disease is not very common and usually affects mostly women between the ages of 20 and 40..

Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome

Some of the most common symptoms in Cushing's syndrome are:

  • Weight gain, especially around the abdomen, upper back, face, and shoulders. General obesity The arms and legs, however, are usually thin.
  • Rounded face with a tendency to redness
  • Stretch marks in areas such as the thighs, arms, abdomen, breasts and face.
  • Very thin skin that tends to bruise easily
  • Difficulty healing skin problems
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Acne
  • Tiredness, fatigue, and muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Irritability and tendencies to depression
  • In women, amenorrhea may occur: loss or irregularities in menstruation, as well as an increase in facial hair.

Diagnosis and treatment of Cushing's syndrome

To diagnose Cushing's syndrome, health professionals analyze cortisol levels in the body through physical examinations and laboratory tests, such as blood, saliva, or urine tests. Imaging studies such as computerized axial tomography or MRIs that provide images of the pituitary and adrenal glands to check for an abnormality may also be helpful..

The treatment to be carried out will depend on the causes that have produced the syndrome

Thus, when the causes are related to the excessive use of corticosteroids, responsible physicians may indicate a periodic reduction of these drugs. This must be done with professional control and supervision, never on our own, since the sudden withdrawal of a drug treatment could present health problems by drastically reducing cortisol levels..

When the causes of this disorder are due to tumors in the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland, the most recommended treatment is surgery to remove these formations..

Thus, the surgeon will be in charge of removing the tumor. In addition, radiotherapy combined with this operation may be necessary to achieve control of the tumor when surgery does not completely eliminate it..

Another common treatment is the prescription of medications that control the levels of the hormone cortisol. A novel and effective drug that is often used to treat this disorder is pasireotide, which normalizes the overproduction of cortisol.

If there is no adequate treatment of this disease, long-term negative consequences can occur, such as weakness in bones and muscles, broken bones, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or enlargement of pituitary tumors..

That is why it is best to start treatment as soon as possible, in order to prevent this type of consequences. Therefore, when faced with the aforementioned symptoms, it is best to seek medical opinion and follow the steps indicated by health professionals..

Links of interest

  • Cushing Syndrome: Causes and Symptoms. https://www.healthline.com/health/cushings-syndrome
  • Cushing's syndrome. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cushings-syndrome/
  • Cushing's syndrome. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cushings-syndrome

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