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Cushing Syndrome

A condition in which there is too much cortisol (a hormone made by the outer layer of the adrenal gland) in the body.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Cushing Syndrome

Cushing's syndrome is a condition that occurs when the body's tissues are constantly exposed to too much of the hormone cortisol. The syndrome is named after a brain surgeon, Harvey Cushing, who identified the condition in 1932. Cortisol is produced by the body's two adrenal (pronounced uh-DREEN-l) glands either in response to stress or when the cortisol levels in the blood are lower than they should be. Cortisol is a type of glucocorticoid (pronounced GLOO-koh-KAWR-tuh-koid) or steroid (pronounced STEER-oid or STER-oid) hormone.

In the right amount, cortisol helps the body with several vital tasks:

When the body continually receives or produces too much cortisol, either from medication or as a result of a tumor, Cushing's syndrome can develop. Many factors influence whether this happens, such as the medication dosage and how long it is taken. Or, in the case of a tumor, how large it grows before it is detected and treated....Read more about Cushing Syndrome NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Late-night salivary cortisol for the diagnosis of Cushing syndrome: a meta -analysis

This review assessed the performance of late-night salivary cortisol as an initial screening and diagnostic test for Cushing's syndrome and concluded that it was a robust and convenient test. Despite some limitations in the data and analysis, this conclusion is likely to be reliable.

Accuracy of diagnostic tests for Cushing's syndrome: a systematic review and metaanalyses

This well-conducted review concluded that commonly used tests to diagnose Cushing's syndrome appeared to be highly accurate in referred patients, but their performance in usual clinical practice remained unclear. These conclusions are likely to be reliable.

Utility of the immediate postoperative cortisol concentrations in patients with Cushing's disease

BACKGROUND: Several investigators have recommended serial measurements of serum cortisol in the days following pituitary surgery to identify patients at risk of recurrence.

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Summaries for consumers

Pituitary Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of pituitary tumors.

Unusual Cancers of Childhood Treatment (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of unusual cancers of childhood such as cancers of the head and neck, chest, abdomen, reproductive system, skin, and others.

Terms to know

Adrenal Glands
A gland located on each kidney that secretes hormones regulating metabolism, sexual function, water balance, and stress.
Adrenocortical Carcinoma
A rare cancer that forms in the outer layer of tissue of the adrenal gland.
A chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular functions of the body. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that tells other cells when to use glucose for energy. Synthetic hormones, made for use as medicines, can be the same or different from those made in the body.
Pituitary Gland
A pea-sized gland at the base of the brain that regulates the body's balance of hormones.
Pituitary Tumors
A tumor that forms in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized organ at the base of the brain.

More about Cushing Syndrome

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Cushing's syndrome, Hypercortisolism, Hypercorticism, Itsenko-Cushing syndrome, Itsenko disease, Suprarenogic syndrome

Other terms to know: See all 5
Adrenal Glands, Adrenocortical Carcinoma, Hormones

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