What is Cushing's syndrome?
Cushing's syndrome is a condition where the adrenal glands over produce the mineralocorticoid hormone aldosterone. This hormone acts in conjunction with renin and angiotensin to regulate the volume of circulating blood through subtle alterations in the amount of sodium and hence water reabsorption in the kidneys. Aldosterone increases the amount of sodium reabsorbed in the kidney and by osmosis draws water along with it. This action is usually counterbalanced to
homeostatically maintain normal blood volume. However, in Conn's Syndrome the cells of the adrenal cortex which secrete aldosterone multiply and secrete independently of their normal regulation. As a consequence, blood volume increases and the person becomes, usually severely, hypertensive.
Sometimes called hypercortisolism, Cushing's syndrome can occur when your adrenal glands, located above your kidneys, make too much cortisol. It may also develop if you're taking high doses of cortisol-like medications (corticosteroids) for a prolonged period. These corticosteroids are commonly used to treat a variety of acute and chronic illnesses. Too much cortisol can produce some of the hallmark signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome - a fatty hump between your shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks (striations) on your skin. It can also result in high blood pressure, bone loss and, on occasion, diabetes.
Treatments for Cushing's are designed to return your body's cortisol production to normal. By normalizing, or even markedly lowering cortisol levels, you'll experience noticeable improvements in your symptoms. Left untreated, however, Cushing's syndrome can eventually lead to death. Cushing's syndrome associated with the use of corticosteroid medication is fairly common. By contrast, it's rare for the cause to be excess cortisol production by the body. Most of the latter cases occur in adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old. Overall, Cushing's syndrome affects about 10 to 15 of every million people each year.
Cushing's syndrome is a rare disorder in which body tissue is exposed to excess levels of the hormone cortisol, which helps the body manage stress and plays a role in regulating the immune system. Cortisol levels increase when the pituitary gland in the brain releases another hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Cortisol levels also rise during times of stress. Because cortisol influences almost all body systems, Cushing's syndrome may cause such diverse symptoms as weight gain, skin changes, and fatigue, and lead to such serious conditions as depression, osteoporosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure. If untreated, Cushing's syndrome can result in death.