Cushing's syndrome is a rare problem that happens when you have too much of the hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol is especially important in controlling blood pressure and metabolism. But it affects almost every area of your body.
Normally, your body keeps the level of cortisol in balance through a complex system that involves three glands.
If something upsets this system, your cortisol level can get too high. If it's high for too long, it can cause symptoms and can lead to serious problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and osteoporosis.
Another name for Cushing's syndrome is hypercortisolism.
The most common cause is taking steroid medicines, such as prednisone, for a long time. These medicines act like cortisol in your body. They are used to treat many diseases, including lupus, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also used after an organ transplant.
You can also get Cushing's syndrome because your body makes too much cortisol. This can happen if you have:
The symptoms of Cushing's syndrome vary and often appear slowly over time. You may have:
Cushing's syndrome can also lead to other health problems, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, and cataracts.
Cushing's syndrome can be hard to diagnose because many things can make your cortisol level higher than normal. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in hormone disorders (endocrinologist) to diagnose or treat Cushing's syndrome.
To find out if you have Cushing's syndrome, a doctor will:
A doctor can usually find out from these exams if steroid medicine is causing the problem.
If you don't take steroid medicine or your doctor thinks something other than medicine is causing your symptoms, you may have tests, such as:
If long-term use of steroid medicine is the cause of Cushing's syndrome:
If a pituitary tumor is the cause:
If an adrenal tumor is the cause:
If a tumor of the lungs or another organ is the cause, the tumor will be removed or treated with radiation or medicines.
To avoid health problems from Cushing's syndrome, there are many things you can do.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.