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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

Pasireotide (Signifor): Treatment of Adult Patients with Cushing Disease [Internet]

Cushing disease is a rare disease caused by persistent exposure to excess glucocorticoid due to abnormal secretion of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) from a pituitary adenoma. Major clinical signs and symptoms include obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, fatigue and muscle weakness, various dermatologic manifestations, neuropsychological changes, bone loss, and limited immune function. Cushing disease is associated with a decrease in quality of life (QoL) and increased mortality primarily due to cardiovascular complications. First-line treatment is surgical resection of the pituitary tumour; however, remission is not always achieved and even when it is, up to 25% of patients will experience recurrence in the long term. Despite poor evidence of efficacy and significant safety concerns, several drugs that have not been approved by Health Canada to treat Cushing disease have been used in these patients in clinical practice.

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.

Clinical course and management of iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome after co-administration of injected-triamcinolone and ritonavir: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: John G, Ollo D, Meyer P, Herold M, Samer CF, Calmy A.  Clinical course and management of iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome after co-administration of injected-triamcinolone and ritonavir: a systematic review. Journal of Antivirals and Antiretrovirals 2013; 5(7): 180-184 Available from: http://omicsonline.org/clinical-course-and-management-of-iatrogenic-cushing-syndrome-jaa.1000086.php?aid=22049

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Summaries for consumers

Pituitary Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Patient Version

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

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 messenger molecule that helps coordinate the actions of various tissues; made in one part of the body and transported, via the bloodstream, to tissues and organs elsewhere 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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