Cushing’s disease

There are a pleathora of diseases, disorders, syndromes and medical conditions out there, and sometimes it can be hard to remember which is which, much less remember the signs and symptoms and what to watch out for if you or a loved one begin to display unusual medical symptoms. Luckily though, advances in medical science and the internet allow doctors to recognize and treat more and more medical conditions, and people at home to do more and more research about medical conditions that they or their loved ones have been diagnosed with. One such disease is Cushing’s disease, and this article will detail the causes, signs, symptoms, risks and treatment of Cushing’s disease so that you can be more informed if your life is ever touched by this medical condition.

Cortisol is a hormone in body. When someone suffers from overproduction of cortisol, to the extent that cortisol saturates the body’s soft tissues, then they suffer from Cushing’s disease. Luckily, Cushing’s disease is relatively rare, so it is unlikely that your life will ever be touched by Cushing’s disease, but it does happen. The people most prone to Cushing’s disease are between the ages of 20 and 50. The people that have the highest risk of developing Cushing’s disease are obese, have type 2 diabetes, and suffer from trouble controlling their blood glucose (i.e. blood sugar.) It is people in that risk factor group who are more likely to develop Cushing’s disease. Unfortunately, as Americans embrace a more sedentary lifestyle and are diagnosed with diabetes at a younger and younger age, more people display the risk factors for developing Cushing’s syndrome.

How do you know if you or someone you love has developed Cushing’s disease? Physical appearance can sometimes tell. People with Cushing’s disease often have an obese upper body, a rounded face, and increased fat around the neck area while still displaying arms and legs that are relatively skinny comparatively. Other physical signs of Cushing’s disease include pink or purple stretch marks or skin that appears thin or bruises more easily than normal. Women with Cushing’s disease may show hirsutism, i.e. excess hair growth on the face, chin, neck chest, abdomen and thighs. Oddly, people suffering from Cushing’s disease can also develop a “hump back,” which is a fatty hump between the shoulder blades.

Physiological signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease include weak bones, difficulty in performing routine bending and lifting tasks, and back aches. High blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased thirst, depression, and fatigue may also be signs of Cushing’s disease. For women with Cushing’s disease, the menstrual period may slow or stop. Men with Cushing’s disease may suffer from sexual side effects, including diminished libido and even erectile dysfunction.

Cushing’s disease is caused when a natural process in the body goes awry and begins to produce excessive amounts of cortisol. This most often occurs in women, perhaps because women produce excess amounts of cortisol naturally in the last three months of pregnancy or when performing intense athletic feats. People who take steroids as medication, including for asthma or lupus, are also at higher risk of developing Cushing’s disease.

Cushing’s disease is treated in a variety of ways, depending on the specific reason that the body is producing excess cortisol. Many sufferers are prescribed cortisol-inhibiting drugs, but treatment may require surgery and radiation or chemotheraphy treatments afterward. If the use of steroids is causing Cushing’s disease to appear, your doctor will likely wean you off the drug and put you on a different medication.

If you or someone you know is showing signs of Cushing’s disease, visit a primary care physician immediately. This disease, while serious, is highly treatable.

Last updated on Sep 29th, 2010 and filed under Endocrine System. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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