Cushing’s Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

During this year’s commemoration of Rare Diseases, Leonard Saig M.D. a director at Bnei Zion Haifa spoke about Cushing’s syndrome, also called hypercortisolism. Cushing’s syndrome is rare and difficult to diagnose. According to an article in Tekdeeps, Dr. Harvey Cushing discovered the syndrome in 1912.

Although it is most often caused by steroids, Cushing syndrome may also develop from the use of cortisol medication used to treat asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. Other causes are tumors in the pituitary or adrenal gland.

About the Symptoms

Many of Cushing’s symptoms are not specific. The symptoms are varied, and therefore, diagnosis is difficult.

Known symptoms are:

  • Accumulation of fat in many body areas
  • Red and rounded face
  • Weight gain mostly mid-body
  • Accumulation of fat in the patient’s back
  • Accumulation of fat in the neck
  • Sensitive skin prone to bleeding
  • Acne
  • Purplish stretch marks
  • Fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression
  • Sexual disorders
  • Infertility
  • Weakness in thigh and shoulder muscles
  • High blood pressure
  • Raised blood sugar
  • Raised cholesterol
  • Fractures and bone depletion

About Cushing Syndrome Complications

Complications are increased in areas such as:

  • Stroke and heart attacks
  • Blood clots that form in the lungs or legs
  • Infections
  • Fractures and bone depletion
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Memory or concentration
  • Diabetes and insulin resistance

About An Increase in Cortisol Secretion

Cushing’s “disease” is caused by an adenoma (a tumor that is not cancer) of the pituitary gland. These tumors secrete a hormone from the adrenal gland that produces cortisol.

Cushing’s Syndrome: The Treatment

The first step in treatment resulting from steroid use would be to reduce the dose or possibly substitute another drug.

Treatment for Cushing’s Syndrome that is the result of increased cortisol secretion are:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Medication to inhibit the production of cortisol
  • Radiation therapy in lieu of surgery

How One Patient Was Finally Diagnosed

 Noam Primor, age 29, began to have symptoms in June of 2021. She experienced a headache and dizziness. She went to the ER but was told that she had vertigo and was consequently dismissed.

However, the headache continued. After seeing several doctors, her primary care physician suggested that she see a neurologist. A CT scan showed an adenoma on the pituitary gland. Noam had more tests that showed her symptoms were a match for Cushing’s syndrome.

Surgery was advised and in August of 2021, Noam had successful brain surgery.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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