The constellation of symptoms and signs caused by an excess of cortisol hormone.
Cushing syndrome is an extremely complex hormonal condition that involves many areas of the body. Common symptoms are thinning of the skin, weakness, weight gain, bruising, hypertension, diabetes, thin weak bones (osteoporosis), facial puffiness and, in women, cessation of menstrual periods.
Ironically, one of the most common causes of Cushing syndrome is the administration of “cortisol-like medications” for the treatment of diverse diseases. All other cases of Cushing syndrome are due to the excess production of cortisol by the adrenal gland as, for example, due to:
An abnormal growth of the pituitary gland, which can stimulate the adrenal gland;
A benign or malignant growth within the adrenal gland itself, which produces cortisol; or
Production within another part of the body (ectopic production) of a hormone that directly or indirectly stimulates the adrenal gland to make cortisol.
The neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) described excessive production of cortisol by the adrenal gland due specifically to an ACTH-secreting pituitary adenoma, a benign pituitary tumor that puts out ACTH (AdrenoCorticoTropic Hormone). This drives the adrenal gland to overproduce cortisol.
- Adrenal failure
Adrenal failure: A condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the adrenal hormones that control important functions such as blood pressure. The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys. The adrenal is made up of an outer layer (the cortex) and an inner portion (the medulla). The adrenal glands produce […]
- Adrenal gland
Adrenal gland: A small gland located on top of the kidney. The adrenal glands produce hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, the way the body uses food, the levels of minerals such as sodium and potassium in the blood, and other functions particularly involved in stress reactions.
- Adrenal medulla
Adrenal medulla: The inner portion of adrenal gland. (The outer portion is the adrenal cortex). The adrenal medulla makes epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Epinephrine is secreted in response to low blood levels of glucose as well as exercise and stress; it causes the breakdown of the storage product glycogen to the sugar glucose in […]
Adrenaline: A stress hormone produced within the adrenal gland that quickens the heart beat, strengthens the force of the heart’s contraction, and opens up the bronchioles in the lungs, among other effects. The secretion of adrenaline is part of the human ‘fight or flight’ response to fear, panic, or perceived threat. Also known as epinephrine.
Adrenoleukodystrophy: A rare genetic (inherited) disorder characterized by the breakdown or loss of the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells in the brain and progressive dysfunction of the adrenal gland. Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is one of a group of genetic disorders called the leukodystrophies that cause damage to the myelin sheath of the nerve fibers in the […]