Cushing’s Syndrome is caused by an excess of cortisol production or by excessive use of cortisol or other similar steroid hormones.
When too much cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands, or an excess is taken in treating other diseases, significant changes occur in all of the tissues and organs of the body. All of these effects together are called Cushing’s Syndrome.
Cushing’s disease is the name given to a type of Cushing’s caused by too much ACTH production from the pituitary gland.
Spontaneous overproduction of cortisol in the adrenals is divided into two groups- those due to an excess of ACTH and those that are independent of ACTH. When the source of excess cortisol production is a tumor of the adrenal gland itself, then it is not dependent on ACTH.
Symptoms may include but are not limited to the following changes in body habitus: abnormal obesity, face may become more round and have a swollen appearance(moon face), increased size above the collar bone (supraclavicular), protusion (buffalo hump) at the back of the neck.
Skin and hair changes: bruise easily, purplish stretch marks (striae), red face (plethora), hair loss on head, excessive hair on face, abdomen, chest, and thighs. Depression, mood swings or anxiety. Generalized weakness and fatigue, muscle weakness. Decreased fertility or libido and menstrual disorders in women.
It is important to remember that not everyone who has Cushing’s will experience the same symptoms. Also, not everyone who has the classic physical features of Cushing’s actually have the disease. Cushing’s is a serious disorder and it is important to carefully exclude it from other disorders and obtain a proper diagnosis.
Testing for Cushing’s
Some of the test performed may be the 24 hour Urine free cortisol which measures the amount of cortisol in the body during a 24 hour period.
Dexamethazone Suppression Tests, Serum blood test for ACTH or cortisol, Dexamethasone Suppressed CRH Stimulation, Salivary Cortisol test, Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling, Octreo Tide Scan, MRI, and CT Scan.