Brief Overview of Cushing’s

What is Cushing’s Disease?

Have you ever seen those awful infomercial/commercials that start off with something like, “Do you have too much belly fat?” I was always skeptical of the supplements those commercials shout about. (My skepticism in the effectiveness of these supplements was confirmed when I received my diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease). Belly Fat is only one symptom of too much cortisol in the body. Cushing’s Disease or Cushing’s Syndrome are one of only a couple of causes of high cortisol. They are rare** conditions that don’t usually result in a diagnosis until adulthood.

When we look at Cushing’s Disease versus Cushing’s Syndrome, they both demonstrate too much cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the hormone that allows you and I to react to stress. Stress can be from work, relationships and other external events or stimuli, but can also be due to illness and stress on tissues in the body.  For the average person, it is produced in spurts, mostly in the morning with very little cortisol released during the night.

Once we establish the high level of cortisol when it is indicated it should be low, the doctor looks for the cause by doing more testing, such as MRI, CT, and IPSS. You would be given a diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome regardless of the cause. Cushing’s Disease means that the high level of cortisol is caused by a tumor producing the ACTH, a hormone that is supposed to be made by the pituitary gland.

A summary of my testing/diagnosis:

In my case I not only presented with the high levels of cortisol in urine and blood work, all of the “symptoms” except for one, I had it confirmed to be too much ACTH produced by a tumor in the pituitary gland.

For further information, visit The Pituitary Society’s page.

**When looking at individuals under sixty-five years old, there are about 49 cases of Cushing’s Syndrome per 1 million people. In Cushing’s Disease, there are only 8 cases per million. This study looked only at patients in the United States (This was found in the abstract by Partnership for Health Analytic Research, LLC in the June 18, 2015 edition of scholarly journal, Pituitary.)

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