Overview of Cushing Syndrome
Cushing Syndrome is characterized by presence of abnormally high level of cortisol in the blood. It is also known as hypercortisolism. Cortisol is a vital hormone produced by adrenal glands. Level of cortisol in the blood is also controlled by another hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) that is produced by pituitary gland. Cortisol play important role in the metabolism of fat and glucose in the body. It also functions to control and manage stress. Levels of cortisol are elevated in case of emotional or physical stress, infection, injury or nay strenuous activity. Cortisol levels also vary during different times of the day and are highest during early morning at 7 am. Prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol lead to Cushing syndrome that causes abnormal changes in the body. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can lead to overcoming of harmful effects of high levels of cortisol.
Causes and Risk Factors of Cushing Syndrome
The major cause of Cushing syndrome is overactive adrenal or pituitary gland. Presence of pituitary adenoma (tumor of pituitary gland), ectopic ACTH-secreting tumor or primary adrenal gland disease can lead to overproduction of cortisol hormone. Continuous exposure to stress or prolonged infection or injury can also lead to Cushing syndrome. Individual suffering from adrenocortical carcinomas are at high risk of developing Cushing syndrome at certain stage in life. Certain individuals are genetically predisposed to develop carcinomas of endocrine glands which increases their risk of Cushing syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Cushing Syndrome
The common symptom of Cushing syndrome includes abnormal weight gain, appearance of hump between the shoulders, abnormal deposition of fats in upper back and midsection, rounded face, excessive bruising, pink or purple stretch marks on abdomen, thigh and breasts, acne and difficulty in wound healing. The major symptom of Cushing syndrome in men include decreased sexual activity, erectile dysfunction and infertility. In women, high levels of cortisol lead to unwanted and abnormal facial and body hair and irregular menstrual periods.