Cushing syndrome: Get informed

Cushing's syndrome presents itself as a set of physical manifestations that appear because the patient's body was subjected to a long-term excess of hormones with a "glucocorticoid" action. The most common manifestation is weight gain - particularly around the midsection and upper back - and a puffy face (moon face).

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Cushing's syndrome

Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome

Many symptoms of this rare disease can be physical (weight gain in upper body, puffy face (moon face), bone fragility, stretch marks, hematomas, redness, high blood pressure...) or psychological (insomnia, irritability, concentration disorders, depression...).

Multiple origins

Cushing's syndrome, characterized by cortisol hypersecretion, can be caused by medical treatment (iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome) or by natural health conditions (endogenous Cushing's syndrome). In the former, the patient is subjected to excessively heavy corticosteroid drug therapy, which may lead to disease. In the second case, the patient may have a tumour (adenoma) that causes excessive cortisol secretion.

The pathology and its diagnosis

The diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome is particularly difficult to make. Indeed, the appearance of symptoms, being particularly common, does not make it possible to detect the disease immediately. Therefore, the diagnosis is commonly made by:

First, doctors perform a series of tests to confirm excess cortisol secretion. Then, if the first test is positive, the doctors will investigate the cause of the hypersecretion of cortisol using scans, MRIs, or blood tests. The patient may need to go through a number of examinations to determine the consequences that Cushing's syndrome can have on their body (diabetes, kidney dysfunction, heart problems...). Moreover, there is currently no way to detect the disease before it occurs.

Cushing's syndrome treatments

The aim of Cushing's syndrome treatments is to eliminate the cause of excess cortisol in the patient's body. There are two possibilities: surgical treatment or drug treatment. The type of intervention will depend on the cause of Cushing's syndrome. Generally, the tumor will be removed; however, the adenoma may be impossible to extract (too small, too large...) or may reappear later (recurrence). Some types of cancer are also aggressive and therefore require intervention at an early stage of the disease. When the surgical alternative is impossible or unsuccessful, there are drug treatments that can reduce or block the secretion (or effects) of cortisol.

Last updated: 3/18/17

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