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Medicine (Baltimore). 1981 Jan;60(1):25-35.

Cushing's syndrome: problems in diagnosis.


Cushing's syndrome, an unusual group of disorders characterized by hypercortisolism, must be considered in the differential diagnosis of such common clinical problems as hirsutism, menstrual irregularity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and obesity. Its distinct forms--pituitary-dependent Cushing's syndrome (Cushing's disease), adrenal tumor and ectopic ACTH syndrome--must be identified correctly so that specific therapy can be administered. In the majority of cases, use of a relatively simple diagnostic sequence will provide accurate and rapid diagnosis. However, in our experience with more than 60 patients, diagnostic difficulties may arise from a variety of conditions (e.g., drug interference, alcohol ingestion, and depression). In addition, unusual circumstances, such as unexpected responses to dexamethasone, may complicate the diagnosis. Our approach to these problems is illustrated through a report of seven cases, and we emphasize that the proper management of Cushing's syndrome mandates a thorough marshalling of all the available data.

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