Cushing syndrome : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Hypercortisolism

Definition

Cushing syndrome is a disorder that occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol. It may also occur if you take too much cortisol or other steroid hormones.

See also: Cushing’s disease (pituitary Cushing’s)

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Cushing syndrome may be caused by taking too much corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and prednisolone. These drugs are used to treat conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Other people develop Cushing syndrome because their bodies produce too much cortisol, a hormone normally made in the adrenal gland. Causes of too much cortisol are:

  • Cushing’s disease, when the pituitary gland makes too much of the hormone ACTH. ACTH then signals the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Tumor of the pituitary gland may cause this condition.
  • Tumor of the adrenal gland
  • Tumor elsewhere in the body that produces cortisol
  • Tumors elsewhere in the body that produce ACTH (such as the pancreas, lung, and thyroid)

Pictures & Images

Endocrine glands

Endocrine glands release hormones (chemical messengers) into the bloodstream to be transported to various organs and tissues throughout the body. For instance, the pancreas secretes insulin, which allows the body to regulate levels of sugar in the blood. The thyroid gets instructions from the pituitary to secrete hormones which determine the pace of chemical activity in the body (the more hormone in the bloodstream, the faster the chemical activity; the less hormone, the slower the activity).


Review Date : 9/20/2008
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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