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Cushings Syndrome
Hormonal Abnormalities

Cushing's syndrome is a hormone disorder that generates increased levels of cortisol in the blood specifically caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland that produces large amounts of ACTH (adreno-corticotropic hormone).

Symptoms include rapid weight gain in the abdomen, chest and face, and commonly accompanied by fat pads along the collar bone and back of the neck. A round face is a classic appearance due to increased edema, or fluid within the tissues. Excessive sweating, bruising, and thinning of the skin are typical of Cushing’s syndrome as is increased facial hair, balding, acne, stretch marks, and impact on sexual function.

Cortisol enhances the effect of epinephrine on blood vessels increasing blood pressure and insulin resistance leading to a large majority of concomitant diabetes. This presents with increased urination, thirst, blood sugar, and associated skin disorders such as skin tags, and possible hyperpigmentation; caused by melanocyte stimulating hormone that increases as a byproduct of ACTH production. Cortisol also inhibits the immune system and can increase opportunistic infections in affected individuals.

Hormones that come from outside the body are called exogenous; hormones that come from within the body are called endogenous.

The most common cause of Cushing's syndrome is prescription drugs utilized to treat other conditions. Most of these prescribed drugs are glucocorticoids, or anti-inflammatory steroids used to treat a variety of disorders such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Internal causes of Cushing's syndrome results from increased cortisol secretion from the pituitary gland stimulating the adrenal glands. This is often caused by a tumor in the pituitary stimulating the release of ACTH which exacerbates cortisol production.

Cortisol increase can also be caused by contraceptive pills that combine estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen increases the cortisol binding globulin and raises levels in the blood.

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