Cushing Syndrome Disease - Causes & Treatment
Cortisol and Stress
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced and secreted by the adrenals glands, which sit on the 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 too 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.
Another cause of this disease is hypercortisolism, which occurs when you have received too much cortisol for a particular disease. These diseases are typically lung diseases of autoimmune diseases, such as Systemic Lupus.
Hypothalamous and the Pituitary Gland
Cortisol and the Brain
The production of cortisol is regulated in the brain. The neurons of the hypothalamus release corticotropin-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 appropriately.
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.
Cortisol prepares us for the "fight or flight" syndrome, that helps us in a crisis.
Reasons for Cushing Syndrome
To summarize, 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
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms will vary among individuals, but the most common symptom of Cushing syndrome is an increased appetite, plus weight gain. Sometimes a physician 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 between the shoulders, rounded face (called a moon face) and purple or pink stretch marks on the ski
- 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 on their body and face.
Menstruals 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 on corticosteroid, the dosage may be gradually reduced or stopped altogether, providing the adrenal is working well. 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. They include:
- Ketoconazole (Nizoral)
- Mitotane (Lysodren)
- Metyrapone (Metopirone)
- Pasireotide (Signifor)
- Mifepristone (Korlym, Mifeprex) for patients with type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance
Adrenal Glands on Kidneys
What is Cushing Disease?
Effects of Low Levels of Cortisol
When you have below average cortisol levels in your body Addison's disease or hypopituitarism is the probable 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 Possible Cushing Syndromw
Dogs Can Get Cushings and Addison's Disease
Dogs, but not cats, may get Cushing syndrome and Addison's disease as well. Again, it is to do with the thyroid function.The signs and symptoms of the disease in dogs is an increased appetite 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 tumor, it can be surgically removed. The prognosis 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 in the 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 medications. Your dog should return to their normal activities, but they will need monitoring throughout their lives.
What Is Cushing Syndrome?
Cushing syndrome is a difficult disease with 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 subtle 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 time stressed out most of the time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.