Understand the basics of hypercortisolism, how it affects your body, and the associated health consequences.
Pituitary World News (PWN) is a pituitary disease-focused nonprofit educational organization connecting thought leaders to patients, creating access to critical expertise.
PWN is a network of highly informed professionals and individuals affected by pituitary disorders, with the goal of ensuring patients are diagnosed early and accurately.
The Conley Cushing’s Disease Fund, fiscal sponsor TFEC, based in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is dedicated to serving patients with Cushing disease and their families. The Fund underwrites opportunities for medical students, residents, and professionals focused on early diagnosis of Cushing disease through grand rounds, CME classes, panel discussions, and lunch-and-learn sessions. It offers support groups for patients and family members, and welcomes any patient with Cushing disease, wherever they are on their medical journey. The Fund also hosts an annual fundraising event, Kickin’ Cushing’s to the Curb, that raises awareness and funds to further the mission of The Conley Cushing’s Disease Fund.
The Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation (CSRF) is a nonprofit organization that provides information and support for patients with Cushing disease or Cushing syndrome and their families. CSRF connects with and supports its members through newsletters and its website. A large database enables CSRF to connect patients with one other, facilitating information sharing. CSRF provides high-quality medical information through its Medical Advisory Board of experienced surgeons and endocrinologists, and strives to increase the awareness of Cushing disease and syndrome within the medical community in an effort to decrease time to diagnosis.
Cortisol is an important hormone, sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone.” It helps with the regulation of blood sugar, cardiovascular function, metabolism, inflammation, and memory formulation.
Hypercortisolism is a disease that occurs when your body produces too much cortisol. Hypercortisolism is sometimes referred to as Cushing syndrome.
Hypercortisolism can be caused by taking corticosteroid medications, or by the body making too much cortisol on its own. When hypercortisolism develops from taking corticosteroid medicines, like steroids, it is called exogenous hypercortisolism. This means it results from something outside the body.
Hypercortisolism can also result from something inside the body, which is called endogenous hypercortisolism. This is usually a noncancerous tumor called an adenoma that is most likely on either the adrenal or pituitary gland; however, it also can occur elsewhere in the body.
Hypercortisolism and Cushing syndrome are different terms for the same condition. However, overt Cushing syndrome is often easier to diagnose. When Cushing syndrome is caused by an adenoma on the pituitary gland, it is called Cushing disease.
Physical symptoms associated with classically described overt Cushing syndrome include a fatty hump between the shoulders, weight gain around the mid-section, and pink or purple stretch marks. However, not everyone will display these classic symptoms. In fact, many people will have a constellation of different symptoms. Some other common signs and symptoms include the following:
Hypercortisolism can impact all parts of the body, including serious problems with your bones and heart, uncontrollable diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can cause muscle weakness and problems with libido, obesity, and depression as well.
If you have some of these symptoms, you should ask your doctor if you should be tested.
Hypercortisolism can be difficult to diagnose because there are many nonspecific symptoms that are also common in the general population. These symptoms include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, and menstrual irregularity. This makes it difficult to distinguish between these groups of people, especially as there is no single correct method for diagnosing the condition.
Yes, there are several options for the treatment of hypercortisolism, including surgery, radiotherapy, and medications.
Talk to your doctor right away to see if you should be tested for hypercortisolism.
“It was scary to know that I had a rare disease. ...However, more than anything, I was so relieved to finally know that I wasn’t crazy...”
Jenny grew frustrated after numerous doctors could not figure out what was causing her symptoms. Fed up and exhausted, she took matters into her own hands.
“My doctors kept chiding me to lose weight and exercise. I couldn’t convince them that I WAS trying to eat healthy and exercise...”
Pat had always been fit and active—even devoting his career to athletics. Then, out of nowhere, his health and behavior began to change.
"The weight gain was very noticeable, and then I noticed facial hair. I started to feel less attractive..."
A flurry of unusual symptoms began to surface in Charsetta’s early 20s. Little did she know, this was just the beginning of her journey with hypercortisolism.