cushing's diseaseOther Names:  Cushing syndrome; Nodular primary adrenocortical dysplasia; Adrenal cortex adenoma; Hypercortisolism; Adrenal hyperfunction resulting from pituitary acth excess; Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone syndrome; Hyperadrenocorticism; Ectopic ACTH syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare endocrine disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body’s tissues to high levels of cortisol (a hormone produced by the adrenal gland). It usually affects adults between age 20 and 50 years. Signs and symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include upper body obesity, fatigue, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, backache, high blood sugar, easy bruising and bluish-red stretch marks on the skin. Affected women may also experience irregular menstrual periods and increased growth of body and facial hair. This condition may be caused by a variety of factors including long-term use of corticosteroid medications, tumors in the pituitary gland or adrenal adenomas.Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but may include decreasing the dosage of corticosteroids or surgery to remove tumors.

Patients with Cushing’s disease usually present with one or more signs and symptoms secondary to the presence of excess cortisol or ACTH. Although uncommon, some patients with Cushing’s disease have large pituitary tumors (macroadenomas). In addition to the severe hormonal effects related to increased blood cortisol levels, the large tumor can compress adjacent structures. These tumors can compress the nerves that carry information from the eyes, causing a decrease in peripheral vision. Glaucoma and cataracts also may occur in Cushing’s syndrome. In children, the two main symptoms are obesity and decreased linear growth.

Contact the Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center for more information on Cushing’s Syndrome

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