Cushing’s syndrome – symptoms & causes

One of the famous and rare cases of the pituitary adenoma is the hormonal disorder in the body namely the Cushing’s syndrome, which is caused due to high levels of the hormone ‘cortisol’ being secreted from the pituitary gland.

Often called as the “hypercortisolism” and affecting about 10 to 15 people in every 1,000,000 people, it is relatively rare and usually affects the people in the age group 20-50.

The symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome vary from individuals to individuals depending on the size of the pituitary adenoma.

The body obesity, increased fat around the neck region, emaciating legs and arms, bulgy face are the most common symptoms found in the people, and in children, it is about obesity along with slow growth rate.

Symptoms can also be visible in the skin making the skin fragile and thin, with more bruises and lower healing rate.

There can be stretch marks on thighs, butts, breasts, arms and abdomen, which are purplish pink in color.

The spinal and rib fractures, and backaches due to routine activities are also associated with the occurrence of the pituitary adenoma while secreting the cortisol hormone, and thus making the bones in the body weak and fragile.

People often complain of severe fatigue, high blood pressure and sugar, anxiety, depression, weak muscles, irritability, etc. when affected with this kind of pituitary adenoma.

One can witness the unusual hair growth on a woman’s face, chest, thighs, neck, and abdomen together with the possibility of irregular menstrual cycles.

The pituitary adenoma in the Cushing’s syndrome equally affects men in this regard by making their interest in sex low or completely absent.

What causes Cushing’s syndrome?

When the tissues in the body are exposed to higher cortisol levels for a longer period of time, Cushing’s syndrome of the pituitary adenoma starts getting formulated.

Most people are affected with this disease more especially when they start taking glucocorticoid hormones such as prednisone for rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and various other inflammatory diseases.

But the other most common reason for Cushing’s syndrome to occur is the excess secretion of the cortisol hormone in the body.

Analyzing the production of the cortisol in the body, it performs the vital functions in the body ranging from maintaining the body blood pressure, balancing the insulin effects, regulating the metabolism rate for proteins and carbohydrates, reducing the inflammatory response of the body’s immune system, and monitoring the cardiovascular function in the body.

But when there are variations in the levels of this hormone, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland secrete less CRH (corticotropin releasing hormone) and the ACTH (adrenocorticotropin hormone) leading to the formation of the pituitary adenoma for the Cushing’s syndrome.

The pituitary adenoma is the major reason in most of the Cushing’s syndrome cases, and it is usually benign and affects women more frequently than men, the ratio being 5:1. The other causes can be

  • The Ectopic ACTH Syndrome that originates outside the pituitary producing ACTH and resulting in lung tumors in over 50% of the reported cases.
  • Adrenal pituitary adenoma which is the result of the abnormality in the adrenal glands causing Cushing’s syndrome, and mostly involving non-cancerous tumors called adrenal adenomas.
  • Familial Cushing’s Syndrome that is the inherited case in a person for the development of the tumor of one of more endocrine glands, resulting in Cushing’s disease. Also, the hormone secreting adenomas of the pituitary or the parathyroid glands occur in MEN I type (multiple endocrine neoplasia type I), and the pituitary adenoma or the ectopic or the adrenal tumors cause the Cushing’s syndrome to come in MEN I type.

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