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Last Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Cushing Syndrome - How To Diagnose It?

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Dr. Rajesh JainEndocrinologist • 29 Years Exp.MBBS, MD Preventive Medicine, PG Diploma Diabetes
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Cushing syndrome or round face syndrome, as some like to call it, is a hormonal disorder that is relatively uncommon. It is all about the stress hormone called Cortisol and how it can throw off the body systems. Read on to know the causes and symptoms of this disorder. But first of all, let us know what exactly is the Cushing syndrome?

When an individual's body is exposed more to a particular hormone called Cortisol, he/she may develop a condition called as Cushing syndrome. This can lead to unusual and uncomfortable symptoms. However, this condition of hypercortisolism is completely curable and the patients can continue to lead a normal life. Cushing syndrome is more common in women than in men and occurs mostly between the age of 25 to 40.

Symptoms of cushing syndrome

  1. Excessive weight gain and obesity
  2. Fatty deposits that tend to accumulate in the midsection, face (causing moon facies) or between the shoulders and upper back causing a hump
  3. Fatigue and muscle weakness
  4. Thinning skin that is prone to bruises easily
  5. Purple stretch marks on the arms, thighs, abdomen and breast
  6. Cognitive dysfunction with increased anxiety, irritability and depression
  7. Women can experience extra facial and body hair with irregular or absent periods
  8. High blood pressure and high blood sugar levels
  9. Low sex drive and erectile dysfunction
  10. Weak bones and osteoporosis
  11. Children with this ailment tend to obese and experience a slow growth rate

Causes of Cushing Syndrome
As mentioned above the major cause of Cushing syndrome is the high production of Cortisol. This hormone is produced by the adrenal gland that sits on top of your kidneys. The prime reasons for the over-production of Cortisol can be:

  1. High-stress levels
  2. Malnutrition
  3. Alcoholism
  4. Depression, panic disorder and high levels of emotional stress
  5. Athletic training

Also, another prime cause of this syndrome is the use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, in high doses for a long period. These prescriptions are often given for conditions of asthma, organ transplant, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. A tumor in the pituitary gland that is located at the base of the brain or a tumor in the adrenal glands can also lead to excessive production of Cortisol, thereby leading to Cushing Syndrome.

Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis is done by your doctor to determine the cause of the excess production of the hormone. Tests can include:

  1. Blood Test or imaging scans
  2. Dexamethasone suppression test
  3. 24-hour urinary free cortisol test
  4. Late-night salivary cortisol level

Treatment will vary with the actual cause of the disorder. Medications to decrease cortisol levels or block them can be given.

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