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Cushing's Syndrome - General Info

Cushing's syndrome, also known as hypercortisolism,is a medical condition which features with abnormal levels of cortisol, ahormone normally produced by the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are incharge of production of many hormones and cortisone is produced in the cortexof this gland. In Cushing's syndrome increased production of this hormone leadsto specific symptoms and signs of the illness. Cushing's syndrome may affectpeople of all ages. Still it is most common in middle ages and it predominantlyaffects women.

Causes of Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's syndrome may result from the presence ofhormonally active adrenal gland tumors which produce high amount of cortisol.It may also affect people who are taking corticosteroid medications for longerperiod of time. This medical condition may be also a consequence of enlargementof both adrenal glands and finally, Cushing's syndrome affects people sufferingfrom hormonally active pituitary tumor.

This drives to conclusion that any medicalcondition which leads to increased production of cortisol may eventually causethe onset of Cushing's disease. It is also important to mention thatcorticosteroids which are taken in many medical conditions such as rheumatoidarthritis, asthma, systemic lupus erythematosus etc. also cause Cushing'ssyndrome. This can be easily explained since corticosteroids are chemicallysimilar to naturally produced cortisol.

Symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome

People suffering from Cushing's syndrome havecharacteristic appearance. Namely, their face is round and red; their trunk isobese while limbs are very thin. Furthermore, there is a presence ofdistinctive hump at back of the neck which is actually a collection of fattissue. The skin is covered with acne and there is also presence of purplestretch marks (striae) which most commonly occur on the abdomen, thighs andbreasts. The skin is thin and prone to bruising. The bones of patientssuffering from Cushing's syndrome are weak and susceptible to fractures. Andfinally, women may develop hirsutism. Cushing's syndrome in children may affectnormal growth and development.

This illness carries increased risk forinfections, high blood pressure, high glucose levels and stomach and duodenalulcers. Patients may also suffer from mental changes such as paranoia and euphoriaand they may even develop depression. And finally, patients suffering fromCushing's syndrome also complain about severe fatigue and insomnia.

Treatment for Cushing's Syndrome

The goal of the treatment is restoring normallevel of the cortisol in the body.

The treatment depends on the underlying cause.Surgery is a treatment modality in all patients suffering from adrenal orpituitary tumors. These patients are sometimes treated with radiation therapy.In case of rapid worsening in patients whose both adrenal glands are enlargedsurgical removal of the affected glands may be effective in alleviation ofsymptoms. Removal of both adrenal glands requires proper hormonal substitution.

And if Cushing's syndrome is cause by a cancer ofother site of the body the increased levels of cortisol may be brought undercontrol after the tumor is removed or in case the inoperable patients undergoadrenal gland suppression.

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