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Cushing's syndrome is a
rare problem that happens when you have too much of the
hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol is especially important in controlling blood
metabolism. But it affects
almost every area of your body.
Normally, your body keeps the level of cortisol in balance through a complex system that involves three glands.
If something upsets this system, your cortisol level can get too high. If it's high for too long, it can cause symptoms and can lead to serious problems, such as
high blood pressure,
Another name for Cushing's syndrome is
The most common cause is taking corticosteroid medicines, such as prednisone, for a long time. These medicines act like cortisol in your body. They are used to treat
many diseases, including lupus,
and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also used after an organ transplant.
You can also get Cushing's syndrome because your body makes too much cortisol. This can happen if you have:
The symptoms vary and often appear slowly over time. You may have:
Cushing's syndrome can also lead to other health problems, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, and
Cushing's syndrome can be hard to diagnose because many things can make your
cortisol level higher than normal. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in hormone
disorders (endocrinologist) to diagnose or treat Cushing's syndrome.
To find out if you have Cushing's syndrome, a doctor
A doctor can usually find out
from these exams if
corticosteroid medicine is causing the problem.
If you don't take corticosteroid medicine or your
doctor thinks something other than medicine is causing your symptoms, you may have tests, such as:
Cushing's syndrome can lead to serious health problems, so it's important to start treatment right away. Treatment can often cure Cushing's syndrome.
If long-term use of corticosteroid medicine is the cause:
If a pituitary tumor is the cause:
If an adrenal tumor is the cause:
If a tumor of the lungs or another organ is the cause, the tumor will be removed or treated with radiation or medicines.
There are many things you can do to
prevent weight gain, strengthen your muscles and bones, and avoid health problems from Cushing's syndrome.
Eat a healthy diet
Take good care of yourself
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about Cushing's syndrome:
Living with Cushing's syndrome:
The Cushing's Support and Research Foundation offers consumer
pamphlets and other information. The organization also publishes a
The Hormone Health Network is a nonprofit organization
started by the Endocrine Society. The organization promotes the prevention,
treatment, and cure of hormone-related conditions through public outreach and
The National Adrenal Diseases Foundation is a consumer-based
organization providing information and support for people with adrenal-related
The National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service
is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases, National Institutes of Health. This Web site offers consumer
information on the cause, treatment, and effects of endocrine and metabolic diseases.
The Pituitary Network Association is a nonprofit
organization that provides support for people who have pituitary tumors and
Other Works Consulted
Almeida MQ, Stratakis CA (2011). Cushing’s syndrome. In ET Bope et al., eds., Conn’s Current Therapy 2011, pp. 653–659. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Carroll TB, et al. (2011). Glucocorticoids and adrenal androgens. In DG Gardner, D Shoback, eds., Greenspan’s Basic and Clinical Endocrinology, 9th ed., pp. 285–327. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Loriaux DL (2009). Adrenal. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 3, chap. 4. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Nieman L, et al. (2008). The diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 93(5): 1526–1540.
Stewart PM, Krone NP (2011). The adrenal cortex. In S Melmed et al., eds., Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed., pp. 479–544. Philadelphia: Saunders.
February 25, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
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