Everything You Need To Know About Cushing's Syndrome
1. What it is: Whilst extremely rare, Cushing's syndrome usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 and affects women more often than men. There are two different types of glucocorticoid action hormones. One, which is naturally found in our body and is called cortisol, which is secreted by both adrenals. The other is a synthetic hormone also called "synthetic corticosteroids" which is prescribed in the form of drugs for its anti-inflammatory effect. Endogenous Cushing's syndrome occurs when cortisol is secreted excessively by the adrenals and Cushing's syndrome is exogenous or iatrogenic when it occurs after taking medication containing corticosteroids.
2. Symptoms: Cushing's syndrome has a combination of symptoms that can gradually develop and worsen over months and years. The most evident signs of Cushing's syndrome are: weight gain in the face and upper body, puffy and red face, hypertension, excess hairiness in women, fragile skin (leading to bruises and stretch marks), irregular menstrual cycles, and tiredness.
3. Causes: Cushing's syndrome can be caused by drugs (synthetic corticosteroids) or by a tumour. This may be a tumour in the adrenal gland that makes too much cortisol or a tumour in the pituitary gland. Some tumours of the pituitary gland cause overproduction of another hormone, ACTH or adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cause the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol. This condition is then called "Cushing's disease".
4. Treatment: Cushing's syndrome is treated in the majority of cases by surgery. This involves removing the tumour to reduce the overproduction of cortisol. Radiation and chemotherapy can also be used for tumours in some cases.