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Alternative Names Return to topHypercortisolism
Definition Return to top
Cushing syndrome is a disease that occurs when your body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. It may also occur if you take too much cortisol or other steroid hormones.
Causes Return to top
The most common cause of Cushing syndrome is side effects from taking anti-inflammatory steroid medications for conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
The second most common cause is Cushing's disease, which occurs when the pituitary gland makes too much of the hormone ACTH. ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.
Cushing's disease affects women more often than men.
Cushing syndrome can also be caused by the following:
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Blood sugar and white blood cell counts may be high. Potassium level may be low.
Laboratory tests are done to confirm high cortisol level. These include:
Tests to determine the cause may include:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment depends upon the cause.
Cushing syndrome caused by corticosteroid use:
Cushing syndrome caused by a pituitary tumor or tumor that releases ACTH:
Cushing syndrome due to an adrenal tumor:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Removing the tumor may lead to full recovery, but there is a chance that the condition will return.
Survival for people with ectopic tumors depends on the tumor type. Untreated, Cushing syndrome can be life-threatening.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of Cushing syndrome.
References Return to top
Arnaldi G, Angeli A, Atkinson AB, et al. Diagnosis and complications of Cushing's syndrome: A consensus statement. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88:5595-5602.Update Date: 3/18/2008 Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.