Cortisol is a hormone that influences metabolism and regulates your body's response to stress, preparing you to flee or fight the danger. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory; synthetic form of cortisol is used in various medicines. But when the levels of cortison are excessive, it can throw almost every system of your body off balance and eventually lead to Cushing's syndrome.
What is Cushing’s syndrome and what causes it?
Cushing’s syndrome (also called hypercortisolism) is a disorder that develops if your levels of hormone cortisol have been too high for too long. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), pituitary adenomas (non-cancerous tumors) account for 70% of cases of Cushing’s syndrome. These tumors secrete extra ACTH; the hormone that stimulates the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands. The syndrome can also develop because of tumors of the adrenal glands and ACTH-producing tumors in various parts of the body.
Another cause of Cushing’s syndrome may be a prolonged use of corticosteroids, which act in the same way as naturally produced cortisol in your body.
In most cases, Cushing’s syndrome can be successfully treated and cured. The treatment depends on the underlying cause and may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or lowering the dose of corticosteroids.
What are the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome?
Cushing’s syndrome has a wide range of signs and symptoms. They include the following:
- upper body obesity;
- thinning legs and arms;
- skin that bruises easily and heals slowly;
- purple or pink stretch marks on the abdomen, breasts, thighs, and arms;
- decreased libido;
- in women, irregular periods and an increased growth of hair on the face, chest, abdomen, and thighs;
- severe fatigue;
- muscle weakness;
- weakened bones that may fracture easily;
- high blood pressure;
- increased blood sugar;
- increased thirst and urination;
- kidney stones;
- depression, anxiety, and irritability.
If you suspect you may have Cushing’s syndrome, talk to your healthcare provider.
What you can do in addition to treatment
It may take quite a while to recover from Cushing’s syndrome. There are some measures you can take to aid the recovery process:
- Start to exercise but don’t overdo it. Getting back into shape, don’t put too much strain on your weakened muscles. It’s best to ask your doctor how much exercise is OK for you.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eat less sodium and fatty foods. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet to strengthen your bones.
- Get help for depression and other emotional issues. If you find it hard to cope with depression and anxiety brought on by Cushing’s syndrome on your own, don’t hesitate to seek help of a mental health professional. Talk to your family and friends about what you’re going through.
- Relieve aches and pains gently. Good ways to relieve muscle and joint pains that are common during recovery include massages, hot baths, tai chi, and water aerobics.
All in all, Cushing's syndrome is a treatable condition, but can lead to dangerous complications if it's not addressed properly and in a timely manner. If you notice symptoms of Cushing's syndrome, don't hesitate to tell your doctor about them.
You should also try to reduce stress in your life, because being stressed all the time can make the condition worse.
And the main thing is to monitor the level of cortisol. To do this, follow the simple guidelines:
This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.