Cushing’s syndrome, also known as hypercortisolism, is a disorder caused by the extended exposure of the body tissues to cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenaline gland. This disorder is commonly seen in adults of age between 20 and 50.


  • Fatty tissue deposits and weight gain, mainly between the shoulders (buffalo hump) and in the face (moon face)
  • Slow healing of infections, cuts, insect bites, etc.
  • Visible body and facial hair growth in women
  • Depression, irritability, and anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Purple or pink stretch marks on the skin, especially on thighs, abdomen, arms, and breasts
  • Skin become fragile and vulnerable to bruises
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Absent or irregular menstrual periods in girls
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness


The excessive amount of cortisol hormone in the body is the reason for Cushing’s syndrome. This can happen in many ways though.

Corticosteroid Medications

This medication is mainly used to cure inflammatory diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. Corticosteroid is also used in people who had organ transplantation surgery, in order to avoid the chance of rejecting the transplanted organ.

There are corticosteroid injections too. This is mainly used in people to treat joint pains, back pain, and bursitis. Another way of corticosteroid intake is skin creams for disorders like eczema.

Body’s Overproduction

Your body may produce excessive cortisol hormone by overproduction of adrenaline glands or adrenocorticotropic hormone, which usually controls cortisol production in the body.

Risk Factors

  • Osteoporosis or bone loss, which can cause rib fractures and other bone fractures
  • Frequent infections
  • Hypertension
  • Severe fatigue and loss of muscle mass
  • Type 2 diabetes


Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome is an extensive process as most of the symptoms are in common with other disorders. However, the first step in the diagnosis is to check for the symptoms, especially buffalo hump and moon face. Then, the doctors will also check whether the patient is having any corticosteroid medication. Then the following series of tests will pinpoint the real cause.

  • Urine and Blood Test
  • Petrosal Sinus Sampling
  • Saliva Test
  • Imaging Tests

This is to rule out other medical conditions, which have almost same symptoms, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.


The treatment regime for the condition works around regulating the amount of cortisol in the patient’s body. However, the type of treatment depends on the root cause of the disorder. Usually, the treatment includes:

  • Reducing the amount of corticosteroid medication intake;
  • Radiation therapy as a conjunction or alternative to surgery;
  • Surgical removal of pituitary tumors or removal or even adrenaline gland in extreme cases; and
  • Medications to control cortisol in adrenaline gland.
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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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