Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis of Cushings Syndrome

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Hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing Syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that is characterized by the body producing too much cortisol. This condition is commonly caused by taking a specific type of steroid medication. This syndrome can also affect horses and dogs.

Types of Cushing Syndrome

There are two types of the disease, and they are known as exogenous and endogenous. Exogenous Cushing syndrome is caused when hormones are given to a patient during treatment for another condition. Endogenous is caused by naturally occurring problems within the body. Endogenous is likely to be hereditary and not caused by an outside force such as a steroid complex.

Causes of Cushing Syndrome

Anyone who takes anti-inflammatory steroid medications for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments are at risk for Cushing syndrome. Cortisol production from pituitary gland tumors and imbalances are also some of the most common causes of Cushing syndrome. These conditions can cause other secondary conditions which are both damaging to your system and can become very difficult to live with.

Symptoms of Cushing Syndrome

The symptoms of Cushing can be extensive and may be difficult to distinguish from other general symptoms of other conditions but should be checked if you experience many at once:

  • Central obesity and smaller, weaker extremities
  • Frequent acne or skin infections
  • Backaches in various levels of severity
  • Collection of fat between the shoulders also known as a buffalo hump
  • Hair growth on the face in women
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Impotence in men
  • Menstrual cycle suddenly stops in women of all ages
  • Mental changes and depression
  • Lasting purple marks on the skin of the abdomen, thighs, and breasts
  • Round, red, and full face from swelling
  • Thin skin with easy bruising
  • General weakness which could become severe fatigue
  • Unintentional weight gain
  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Skin blushing or flushing uncontrollably
  • Sweating episodes

Testing for Cushing Syndrome

Diagnosing Cushing syndrome can be done in several ways. The most common tests are done with blood tests to determine blood glucose levels, white blood cell count and potassium level checks. The secondary tests will check for cortisol levels in blood and urine as well as the Dexamethasone suppression test. Other possible diagnostic tools which may be used are an Abdominal CT, an ACTH Test or a pituitary MRI. These tests can provide results that can be seen and help to diagnose the possibility for Cushing syndrome.

Treatments for Cushing Syndrome

One of the most common treatments if caused by hormonal imbalances from steroid supplementation, the patient may be asked to reduce their steroidal dosage until the system is back to normal. If caused by other natural causes, the possible options will include removal of tumors for survival. If it goes untreated, the situation could become worse and eventually life threatening for the person who suffers the complications from the condition.

Possible Prognosis for Cushing Syndrome and Complications

Most people who have a tumor that is causing Cushing syndrome have a bright outlook for their prognosis. If it is a tumor, the patient needs to be monitored closely in the event that it grows back and can cause the same problems again. There is always a chance that these conditions could return with patients that have recovered.

Complications include:

  • Diabetes (High or Low blood glucose levels)
  • Enlargement of pituitary tumor and other complications from the tumor growth
  • Fractures due to osteoporosis which are common in older people
  • High blood pressure which could be life threatening
  • Kidney stones from the increase in cortisol and other chemicals filtered through the kidneys
  • Serious infections which could lead to further secondary infections
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