What Causes Cushing’s Disease? What Are Its Symptoms And Treatment

Cushing’s disease occurs when there is constantly raised level of a hormone called Cortisol in the body. The predominant cause of this disease is intake of oral corticosteroid for a long duration. Another reason is when there is increase secretion of cortisol hormone in the body.

A moon shaped round face, buffalo hump (accumulation of fat at the lower part of the back of the neck), and elevation of blood glucose level giving rise to diabetes, and stretch marks on skin are some of the most striking features of Cushing ’s disease.

Osteoporosis produced in Cushing’s syndrome can be a reason for backache and bone pains.

Treatment aimed at bringing back the body’s cortisol level will reduce most of symptoms. Criteria should be to start the treatment no sooner the symptoms of Cushing’s disease are detected.

What Are The Causes Of Cushing’s Disease?

The reason behind Cushing’s disease is excess level of cortisol circulating in the body for a long time. Cortisol is an important hormone required for maintaining various activities in the body. Your blood pressure, heart beats, and various other metabolic activities depend on the level of cortisol hormone.

It is the endocrine system in the body responsible for production of hormones. It consists of various glands such as pituitary gland, thyroid gland, adrenal gland, pancreas and ovaries in females and testes in males. Cortisol is produced by adrenal glands situated above the kidneys.

Patient, who has too high level of cortisol in the body, can develop Cushing’s disease. There are two factors responsible for too much of cortisol; overproduction from within and excess of cortisol due to long time intake of steroids.

Many times patient has to take corticosteroids for a long duration as a treatment for certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma and other chronic lung diseases. The dose required to treat this condition is normally higher than the body needs. This causes increased circulating level of cortisol in the body. These patients develop symptoms of Cushing’s disease.

In certain cases, overproduction of cortisol occurs in the body due to a pituitary gland tumor, or tumor in other glands such as pancreas, thyroid etc.

Cushing’s syndrome associated with adrenal gland tumor is four times more common in women than in men.

Cushings Disease Symptoms

Following are the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease:

  • Moon face is a prominent symptom of Cushing’s disease.
  • Increase in weight, deposition of fat in various parts of the body. For example between the shoulder producing a buffalo hump.
  • Stretch marks seen on abdomen, thigh, arms, and under the breast.
  • Skin becomes thin and delicate. It bruises easily even with minor injury.
  • Due to raised level of glucose in the blood there is low healing of wounds and insect bites.
  • Irregular menses.
  • Backache due to osteoporosis. In serious cases it can result in shortening and collapse of vertebral column.
  • There is decreased libido.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Temporal recession of scalp hair in females.
  • Patient is depressed and anxious.
  • Easy fatigue.
  • When pituitary gland is involved, there is development of bilateral temporal visual defects.

 Treatment For Cushings Disease

Treatment for Cushing’s syndrome is aimed to reduce cortisol level in the body. The primary cause is found after taking history, examination and certain tests.

  • If the cause of Cushing’s disease is due to the use of corticosteroids for a long time, then the treating physician may reduce its dose. However, patient should never reduce the dose on their own.
  • If the cause is due to a tumor in adrenal gland or pituitary gland, patient may have to undergo surgery to remove it.
  • Radiation therapy for treating tumors is also possible in some cases.
  • Physicians also prescribe medicines when surgery or radiation is contraindicated or not possible in certain patients.

Certain home remedies and lifestyle changes also make lot of difference in patients suffering from Cushing’s disease.

  • Reduce heavy physical activities.
  • Drink milk and other calcium containing products as the bones become weak due to osteoporosis. Also vitamin D from exposure to sunlight is valuable for the bones.
  • Many patients feel depressed. Such patients should seek immediate counseling. Yoga and meditation are beneficial.
  • For pains and aches, oil massage, hot fomentation, acupressure is beneficial.

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