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Cushing's Syndrome; Disease Symptoms in Women

Updated on September 22, 2014

Signs of Cushing's Syndrome

Woman diagnosed with Cushing's syndrome. Left, before onset; Right, after symptoms are evident
Woman diagnosed with Cushing's syndrome. Left, before onset; Right, after symptoms are evident

Adrenal Hyersecretion; Too Many Steroids

Cushing's Syndrome, like Addison's Disease, is an adrenal disorder. The excess amount of corticosteroids, particularly glucocorticoid is referred to as Cushing's Syndrome. The overproduction of adrenocortical hormones may result from internal as well as external causes. Internal causes may be pituitary tumors, and excess secretion of corticotropin by a cancer of the lung or other tissues. The most common external cause is prolonged use of high dose steroid use. Cushing's disease affects women more than men, and approximately 25% of cases are due to adrenal tumors.

Cushing's Syndrome Recommended Reading

Cushing Syndrome Causes & Characteristics

There are many characteristics that result from excess levels of circulating corticosteroids. Hyperadrenalism produces many devastating marked changed in personal appearance. Such as facial redness, excess facial hair, high blood pressure, and muscle waisting along with delayed wound healing.

Hallmark signs that lead to a diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome:

  • Obesity (especially in the midsection)
  • Protein wasting (slender extremities and thin skin)
  • Facial fullness, often referred to as a "moon face"
  • Purple stretch marks on the abdomen, breasts, and buttocks
  • Osteoporosis in pre menopausal women

Treatment for Cushing Syndrome

If Cushing's syndrome is caused by administraton of synthetic steroids, the physician may gradually withdraw them. Those who are affected with hyperadrenalism due to a single benign adrenal tumor undergo surgical intervention, and those who have this disorder to to cancer may undergo surgery and chemotherapy. If surgery is not an option, mitotane, a cytotoxic substance, is given. Ketoconazole, aminoglutethimide, and metyrapone are agents that interfere with cortisol production and may be used in combination with mitotane for enhanced effects. There is risk for adrenal crisis when patients are on drugs that suppress adrenal function. If trauma or shock occurs these drugs should be stopped.


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