Cushing’s disease : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Pituitary Cushing’s disease

Definition

Cushing’s disease is a condition in which the pituitary gland releases too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ATCH). The pituitary gland is an organ of the endocrine system.

Cushing’s disease is a form of Cushing syndrome.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor or excess growth (hyperplasia) of the pituitary gland. This gland is located at the base of the brain.

People with Cushing’s disease have too much ACTH. ACTH stimulates the production and release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Too much ACTH means too much cortisol.

Cortisol is normally released during stressful situations. It controls the body’s use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and also helps reduce the immune system’s response to swelling (inflammation).

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).

Striae in the popliteal fossa

Striae in the popliteal fossa

Striae in the popliteal fossa: Striae or stretch marks result from stretching of the skin, or other influences such as Cushing’s syndrome. Most pregnant women experience striae at some point during their pregnancy. This picture shows striae in the popliteal fossa (the area on the back side of the leg at the knee joint). When the striae first appear they have a violaceous (red-purple) color, but over time they take-on a dull white appearance.

Striae on the leg

Striae on the leg

Stretch marks (striae) result from rapid stretching of the skin which may occur with obesity, pubertal growth spurts, pregnancy, or from other influences such as Cushing syndrome.


Review Date : 11/23/2009
Reviewed By : Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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