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Cushing Syndrome Disease - Causes & Treatment

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

cushing-syndrome-disease-causes-and-symtpoms

Cortisol and Stress

Cortisol is a hormone that is produced and secreted by the adrenals glands, which sit on the top of each kidney. Many people live with a great deal of stress in their lives, which can be caused by an irritable boss, problems with family or even friends, money issues and the list goes on and on. Too much to do with too little time is something you hear quite often.

Cortisol secretion is actually part of the fight or flight response, so if you fight you use up that extra cortisol that is secreted. If the cortisol is due to stress it does not leave the body, and can cause inflammation, plus disease.

Another cause of this disease is hypercortisolism, which occurs when you have received too much cortisol for a particular disease. These diseases are typically lung diseases of autoimmune diseases, such as Systemic Lupus.

Hypothalamous and the Pituitary Gland

Wickimedia

Wickimedia

Cortisol and the Brain

The production of cortisol is regulated in the brain. The neurons of the hypothalamus release corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which signals the pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH acts to regulate cortisol levels by stimulating secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Each of these glands must be functioning properly for this system to work appropriately.

The cortisol level is typically highest in the morning and low in the evening and at night. The pattern can be reversed if you are working a night shift and working during the day. The pattern is called the diurnal rhythm, and if this pattern does not work properly with too much cortisol being secreted, the result is Cushing's disease.

Cortisol prepares us for the "fight or flight" syndrome, that helps us in a crisis.

Reasons for Cushing Syndrome

To summarize, when there is an excess amount of cortisol in your blood, Cushing syndrome is the result.

The causes of this syndrome include:

  • Long term usage of corticosteroids
  • Adrenal gland tumor
  • A non-cancerous tumor in the pituitary gland causes too much ACTH secretion, which results in the adrenal glands producing too much cortisol
  • Certain cancers cause ACTH production
  • Tumors of the endocrine glands is inherited but rare condition

Cushing Syndrome

cushing-syndrome-disease-causes-and-symtpoms

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms will vary among individuals, but the most common symptom of Cushing syndrome is an increased appetite, plus weight gain. Sometimes a physician may assume weight gain is just the patient overeating, and the disease can get overlooked until more symptoms develop.

The common symptoms include:

  • Weight gain in a particular pattern, with fatty deposits commonly seen between the shoulders, rounded face (called a moon face) and purple or pink stretch marks on the ski
  • Glucose intolerance and possibly diabetes
  • Fragile skin that thins and bruises easily
  • Healing is slow for cuts, infections or insect bites
  • Acne
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional changes (anxiety, depression and irritability)
  • Muscle weakness

Men may experience erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. Women may grow thicker hair on their body and face.

Menstruals are often irregular or absent. A long term effect is bones that fracture more easily. Hypertension can be a problem and loss of emotional control.

Cushing Disease Treatments

If the individual has been on corticosteroid, the dosage may be gradually reduced or stopped altogether, providing the adrenal is working well. If the cause is due to a tumor, then, surgery or radiation is the treatment.

There are some medications that can also control cortisol production. They include:

  • Ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • Mitotane (Lysodren)
  • Metyrapone (Metopirone)
  • Pasireotide (Signifor)
  • Mifepristone (Korlym, Mifeprex) for patients with type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance

Adrenal Glands on Kidneys

cushing-syndrome-disease-causes-and-symtpoms

What is Cushing Disease?

Effects of Low Levels of Cortisol

When you have below average cortisol levels in your body Addison's disease or hypopituitarism is the probable diagnoses. Addison’s disease may cause changes in heart rate and blood pressure, loss of appetite with weight loss, weakness, and fatigue and mouth lesions. This disease can usually be treated with replacement hormones.

Dog with Possible Cushing Syndromw

cushing-syndrome-disease-causes-and-symtpoms

Dogs Can Get Cushings and Addison's Disease

Dogs, but not cats, may get Cushing syndrome and Addison's disease as well. Again, it is to do with the thyroid function.The signs and symptoms of the disease in dogs is an increased appetite with a pot-bellied result, hair loss and increased drinking and urination. The hair loss is primarily on the body, not the legs and head.

The prognosis is usually good with treatment, although they can develop hypertension and diabetes.

The dogs are treated with mitotane and Trilostant, which acts on the adrenal gland. If there is a tumor, it can be surgically removed. The prognosis is usually good. Some signs will quickly disappear with treatment, and others require more time.

The symptoms of Addison's disease in dogs can be vague. The dog may be listless, have a lack of appetite or just seem off from their normal behavior. There may be gastrointestinal problems, pain in the rear quarters, or muscle weakness, which you might notice if your dog can no longer jump up on the bed.

The dog's symptoms may wax and wane through the years, but there are effective medications. Your dog should return to their normal activities, but they will need monitoring throughout their lives.

What Is Cushing Syndrome?

In Summary

Cushing syndrome is a difficult disease with unpleasant side effects. If you have any of the symptoms listed, such as gaining weight over a period of time when you have not changed your pattern of eating, it is time for a medical evaluation.

The symptoms of Addison's disease are more subtle and sometimes difficult to notice at first. Our president, John F. Kennedy, had this disease.

It is very interesting that dogs also suffer from these diseases, just as humans do, with very similar symptoms.

The main thing to learn from this article is the terrible effects of too much stress in your life. If you are often overwhelmed, in a miserable job or have something else in your life causing frequent stress, try to make some changes. Exercise and meditation are helpful, but try to get to the source of the problem if at all possible.

Life is too short to spend in time stressed out most of the time.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I don't think many people know much about this disease. I hope this article will enlighten some of those with these symptoms. I appreciate your comments. Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 08, 2020:

Our pets can suffer from many of the diseases we get, and this is just one of many. Thanks for bringing attention to Cushing Syndrome. Perhaps it will help others to seek help if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 27, 2015:

Shyron, I am glad this hub was useful for you. This can be a tough disease and I hope your cousin is doing okay. I appreciate your comments and the share.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on June 24, 2015:

Hi Pamela, I just read your hub, I came across it trying to fix an unpublished one of mine on this very same subject. My cousin was diagnosed with Cushing's Syndrome and it lists your hub.

Very Interesting and informative.

Voted up, UAI and shared

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 22, 2013:

PegCole, I hope the information helps your friend and I'm glad you found this hub interesting. Thanks for your comments.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on July 22, 2013:

Oh, I found this one quite interesting, Pamela, and very informative. I'll be passing this along to someone who has been experiencing most of these symptoms. Thank you for this valuable and timely article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 18, 2013:

E Talloni, I think stess is a major factor in many diseases. I appreciate your commetns. and am glad you found this hub helpful.

RTalloni on July 18, 2013:

Interesting to learn about Cushing Syndrome. Our bodies are such a balanced system that we need to be good stewards of. It's helpful to be aware that stress creates an imbalance. Thanks for putting this together for us.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 24, 2013:

Patricia, The symptoms of this disease are just like a person who has had to take a lot of prednisone over a period of time, but the disease has your body releasing cortisol when it shouldn't. This disease may be referred to by different terms but the symptoms are the same. It is primarily a disease of the adrenal glands and dogs have those glands also. I hope that clears it up for your. Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a wonderful week also, and angels are already around you this day.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 24, 2013:

I had no idea this disease even existed. It sounds as though it may be hard to discover if someone actually has it as the symptoms are similar to others . Is that the case? And dogs can get it too...that is rather odd in and of itself.

You covered this well, Pamela, and it probably can give a heads up to someone who may have a number of these symptoms.

Angels are on the way this morning, my Friend. Have a lovely week. ps

Michelle Liew from Singapore on June 15, 2013:

Sharing this great information again!!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 14, 2013:

quildon. Thank you so much for your comments.

Angela Joseph from Florida on June 14, 2013:

Voted up and helpful, Pamela

Martie Coetser from South Africa on June 10, 2013:

Excellent hub!

Pamela, I love your style. Thanks for this most interesting information about the production of Cortisol, Cushing Syndrome and Addison's Decease.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 10, 2013:

Shelley, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

Sue, Stress is considered part of he problem, but anyone who has been on long term prednisone for diseases like asthma, lupus, etc. can get this symptoms. Also, the ones that get a brain tumor. The research sounded like it is more common due to the fact we tend to live more stressful lives. I know that is true for so many. Thanks so much for your comments.

Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on June 10, 2013:

Some good information Pamela. Would you say this is caused by stress?

Shelley Watson on June 10, 2013:

Pamela, once again so interesting to read and learn about something new. A very worthwhile expose on Cushings syndrome. Voted up, interesting and useful.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Gail, The cure really depends on the cause of the disease. It can be difficult for sure. Thanks for your comments. Hugs back to you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

tobusiness, I am glad you enjoyed the article. I thought the dogs information was important for anyone that owns in dog in case they see some unusual weight gain and hair loss. Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Faith, I pray your sister will be well. Thank you so much for your comments and the share. God bless you.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on June 09, 2013:

Hi Pamela,

Thanks for sharing this valuable information about Cushing's Disease. Although I knew it can affect humans, I did not realize that dogs could also suffer from it.

I found the video very compelling and it also showed that even with treatment, it can be difficult to control this disease.

Voted up across the board except for funny.

Hub Hugs,

Gail

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on June 09, 2013:

Pamela, an excellent and most informative article...I love that you included our little four legged friends :).

Well done, voting up and Pinned.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on June 09, 2013:

Hi Pamela,

Thanks for this useful and informative hub here once again. M sister's cortisol is too high in her body, so I will share this with her.

Excellent article. Voted up ++ and sharing

God bless, Faith Reaper

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Barbara, I think stress is responsible for many diseases, at least to some degree. I thought it was sad to know that dogs got this disease also. Thanks for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

kashmir, It is somewhat rare, but it also is not always referred to in those terms. If someone has had long term cortisol treatment they have these symptoms, but no one may utter the word Cushing's syndrome. Thanks for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

drbj, Thank you so much for your commentes.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Midget, I have been unable to stop the treatment unfortunately. The side effects are bad, but they are so limited in how to treat some diseases. Thanks for your comments.

b. Malin on June 09, 2013:

Hi Pamela,

I now feel extremely Educated on "Crushing Syndrome Disease". It's a shame that Dogs get it too. And STRESS is a BIG factor for both humans and Animals.

Thanks for sharing another Informative Hub.

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on June 09, 2013:

Hi my friend i never heard of Cushing Syndrome Disease so thanks for making me aware of it and it's symptoms in this well written article .

Vote up and more !!!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on June 09, 2013:

Pamela, you have performed your usual excellent service of acquainting your readers with the signs and symptoms of lesser known diseases such as Cushing Syndrome Disease which may be due to an excess of cortisol in the body. Well done.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on June 09, 2013:

Pamela, I used to be on Cortisone and during the time my weight was a little high. I had to stop the treatment. Glad I did! Thanks for sharing!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

moonlake. I'm glad the hub was interesting to you and I certainly appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Ruby, I am sorry to hear this disease has touched your family and I wish you all the best of health. Thanks for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Winterfare, I have come across a number of unusual diseases as a nurse, but normally if we don't know someone that has an unususal disease, we never hear aboI then. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Billy, You are anything but boring. I'm glad you found the hub interesting. Thankis for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

Nell Rose, I thought that was amazing also. I know dogs get cancer, but I didn't know dogs got this disease until I did some research/ Thanks for your comments.

moonlake from America on June 08, 2013:

I've heard of Cushing Syndrome Disease before but didn't know much about. You did a good job explaining it. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 08, 2013:

Such an interesting hub. Thank you again for an informative look at a disease that has touched my family......

Darrin Perez from Puerto Rico on June 08, 2013:

Aww, that dog's pot-belly is kind of cute. :o

Seriously though, I had never heard of these two conditions. It's actually slightly surprising how many illnesses and other malaises exist that we don't really know about.

Voted up and interesting!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 08, 2013:

I learn the most interesting things from your hubs. Not like my boring old ramblings. :) Great information, Pamela!

Nell Rose from England on June 08, 2013:

Hi Pamela, I had heard of it before, but had no idea what it was. its amazing that dogs get it too, and your hub will be so helpful for someone with these symptoms, voted up and shared, nell

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 08, 2013:

DDE, It is fairly common, so I thought it was good information to know. Thanks so much for your comments.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 08, 2013:

I had no idea of Cushing Syndrome Disease - Causes and Symptoms, and about dogs being affected by such problems. An interesting and useful hub on these health problems