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 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 to 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.
Hypothalamous and the Pituitary Gland
Cortisol and the Brain
The production of cortisol is regulated in the brain. The hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-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
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.
Reasons for Abnormal Cortisol Levels
If cortisol is too high or too low, there will signs and symptoms of disease. When the blood level is too high, the result is typically Cushing’s disease. High cortisol levels may occur due to tumors in the pituitary gland or other areas of the body. Cortisol levels may also be too high due to a tumor or excessive growth of the tissue in the adrenal gland, which is called hyperplasia.
There is also a secondary adrenal insufficiency disease where the cortisol level is too low. This is due to an underactive pituitary gland that interferes with the production of ACTH. This can happen when the adrenal glands are damaged or underactive for another reason. This situation causes Addison's disease.
Reasons for Cushing Syndrome
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
Cause Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symtoms will vary among individuals, but the most common symptom of Cushing syndrome is an increased appetitie and weight gain. Sometimes a physican 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 around the midsection, upper back, rounded face (called a moon face) and a buffalo hump between the shoulder blades
- Glucose intolerance and possibly diabetes
- Fragile skin that thins and bruises easily
- Healing is slow for cuts, infections or insect bites
- Emotional changes (anxiety, depression and irritability)
- Muscle weakness
Men may experience erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. Women may grow thicker hair of their body and face. Menstrual 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 of cortiocsteroid, the dosage may be gradually reduced or stopped altogether. 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.
Adrenal Glands on Kidneys
Effects of Low Levels of Cortisol
When you have below average cortisol levels in your body, Addison’s disease or hypopituitarism is the probably 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 Cushing Syndrom
Dogs Can Get Cushings and Addison's Disease
Dogs, but not cats, may get Cushing syndrome and Addison's disease as well. The signs and symptoms of the disease in dogs is an increased appetitie 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 turmor, it can be surgically removed. The prognois 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 the is 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 medicaitons. Your dog should return to their normal activities, but they will need monitoring throughout their lives.
Cushing syndrome is a difficult diseases with the 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 sutile 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 stressed out much of the time.
© 2013 Pamela Oglesby
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