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What is Cushing syndrome?

Cushing syndrome is when your body has abnormally high levels of a hormone called cortisol. This can happen for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is overuse of corticosteroid medications.

Symptoms include a round-shaped face, upper body weight gain, and skin that bruises easily. Women may also notice increased body hair and menstrual irregularities. Men may develop erectile and fertility problems. Children who have this condition are often obese and have a slowed rate of growth.

There is no single definitive test for Cushing syndrome. In addition to a physical examination, blood, saliva, and urine tests are usually required. After diagnosis, additional tests are needed to identify the cause. Treatment will depend on the specific cause. Medications can get cortisol levels under control.

There are many different symptoms of this condition, the most common of which are:

• weight gain, obesity

• fatty deposits, especially in the face (round “moon” face), between the shoulders, the upper back, and midsection

• stretch marks on the breasts, arms, abdomen, and thighs

• thinning skin that bruises easily

• cuts, insect bites, and infections that are slow to heal

• acne

• fatigue

• muscle weakness

• glucose intolerance

• increased thirst

• increased urination

• bone loss

• high blood pressure

• headache

• cognitive dysfunction

• anxiety, irritability

• depression Women may also notice extra facial and body hair, as well as absent or irregular menstruation.

Men may also have:

• erectile dysfunction

• loss of sexual interest

• decreased fertility Children with this condition are generally obese and have a slower rate of growth.

Treatment will depend on what is causing the problem. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to help control cortisol production and ease symptoms. If you use corticosteroids, a change in medication or dosage may be required. Do not attempt to change the dosage yourself. Close medical supervision is required. Tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Surgical removal may be required. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be recommended.

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