Cushing’s Syndrome

The condition where there are certain changes in the body that stimulates the production of steroids in excess quantities. The adrenal glands which are present on the kidneys’ top secrete the steroid hormones. The adrenocorticotrophic hormone secreted by the pituitary gland stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the steroid hormones.

Cushing’s syndrome occurs in cases when:
some medications that are used for saving life causes some trouble.
certain diseases affect the adrenal glands thereby inhibiting the normal functioning of the adrenal gland.
the pituitary gland prompts the adrenal glands to secrete more than required amount of the hormones.

In medical terms, iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome occurs in a patient as a side effect of the steroids which is not wanted.

If the condition is caused by any disorder related to the pituitary gland, then it is termed Cushing’s disease. If the presence of the excessive amount of cortisol is due to some other gland or any unwanted growth, it is termed as Cushing’s syndrome.


Cushing’s syndrome is mainly characterised by abnormal gain in weight, particularly on the torso or stomach as well as the chest. The other symptoms for this condition include:

  • Buffalo humps, that are deposits of fat on the shoulders’ back as well as neck’s back.
  • Spots appearing on the shoulder, chest as well as face.
  • back ache
  • headaches
  • acanthosis , darkening of the skin of the neck
  • puffy, rounded and red face
  • heavy sweating
  • thinning of the skin
  • developing bruises on the skin easily
  • the healing of cuts, bruises, insect bites and scratches take a longer time.
  • stretch marks that are purple or red in colour appear on the abdomen, thighs, arms, legs, breasts or buttocks.
  • the muscles of the limbs, shoulders and hips tend to be weak
  • oedema in the legs
  • excessive hair on the body and face
  • irregular periods or infrequent periods
  • infertility
  • hypertension
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • poor libido
  • impotency
  • micturation
  • increased thirstiness
  • osteoporosis
  • psychological problems.


The main cause of Cushing’s syndrome is the presence of the steroidal hormone cortisol in excess quantities.

In certain cases, the pituitary gland that controls the production of this hormone, cortisol, tends to develop a benign tumour or a malignant tumour. The benign tumour can be removed from the pituitary gland by a surgical procedure.

In some other cases, over usage of steroid hormones for the treatment of cancers, asthma and arthritis can also lead to this condition.


The trigger for the abnormally high quantities of cortisol determines the nature of treatment.

If the use of steroid hormones for other ailments causes this disease, then one must either stop the usage of the particular steroids or any other alternative should be sorted out.

Radiation therapy as well as surgery is used for the removal of the tumour from the pituitary gland. An alternative may be the administration of cortisol inhibiting drugs that will inhibit the production of cortisol.

Andrenalectomy is the surgical removal of benign or malignant tumours which are present in the adrenal glands.

If the Cushing’s syndrome is due to cancerous infections like lung tumour, then chemotherapy can be used for treatment.

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