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Cushing's syndrome

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Endocrine System

From MayoClinic.com

In Cushing's syndrome, the level of corticosteroids is excessive, usually from overproduction by the adrenal glands.  The syndrome is named after Harvey Cushing, an American surgeon who first identified the condition in a woman in 1912. Cushing's syndrome can occur when your adrenal glands, located above your kidneys, make too much cortisol. It may also develop if you're taking high doses of cortisol-like medications (corticosteroids) for a prolonged period. These corticosteroids are commonly used to treat a variety of acute and chronic illnesses.

Too much cortisol can produce some of the hallmark signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome — a fatty hump between your shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks (striations) on your skin. It can also result in high blood pressure, bone loss and, on occasion, diabetes.

Treatments for Cushing's are designed to return your body's cortisol production to normal. By normalizing, or even markedly lowering cortisol levels, you'll experience noticeable improvements in your symptoms. Left untreated, however, Cushing's syndrome can eventually lead to death.

Cushing's syndrome associated with the use of corticosteroid medication is fairly common. By contrast, it's rare for the cause to be excess cortisol production by the body. Most of the latter cases occur in adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.

Signs and symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome are:

  • Weight gain, particularly around your midsection and upper back

  • Severe fatigue

  • Muscle weakness

  • Rounding of your face (moon face)

  • Facial flushing

  • Fatty pad or hump between your shoulders (buffalo hump)

  • Swelling (edema) of your legs

  • Pink or purple stretch marks on the skin of your abdomen, thighs, buttocks and armpits

  • Thin and fragile skin that bruises or tears easily

  • Slow healing of cuts, insect bites and infections

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Thicker or more visible body hair (hirsutism)

  • Acne

  • Irregular or stopped menstrual periods in females

  • Erectile dysfunction in males


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