Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Cushing's Syndrome
Cushing's syndrome is a
rare problem that happens when you have too much of the
hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol is especially important in controlling blood
metabolism. But it affects
almost every area of your body.
Normally, your body keeps the level of cortisol in balance through a complex system that involves three glands.
If something upsets this system, your cortisol level can get too high. If it's high for too long, it can cause symptoms and can lead to serious problems, such as
high blood pressure,
Another name for Cushing's syndrome is
The most common cause is taking corticosteroid medicines, such as prednisone, for a long time. These medicines act like cortisol in your body. They are used to treat
many diseases, including lupus,
and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also used after an organ transplant.
You can also get Cushing's syndrome because your body makes too much cortisol. This can happen if you have:
The symptoms vary and often appear slowly over time. You may have:
Cushing's syndrome can also lead to other health problems, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, and
Cushing's syndrome can be hard to diagnose because many things can make your
cortisol level higher than normal. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in hormone
disorders (endocrinologist) to diagnose or treat Cushing's syndrome.
To find out if you have Cushing's syndrome, a doctor
A doctor can usually find out
from these exams if
corticosteroid medicine is causing the problem.
If you don't take corticosteroid medicine or your
doctor thinks something other than medicine is causing your symptoms, you may have tests, such as:
Cushing's syndrome can lead to serious health problems, so it's important to start treatment right away. Treatment can often cure Cushing's syndrome.
If long-term use of corticosteroid medicine is the cause:
If a pituitary tumor is the cause:
If an adrenal tumor is the cause:
If a tumor of the lungs or another organ is the cause, the tumor will be removed or treated with radiation or medicines.
There are many things you can do to
prevent weight gain, strengthen your muscles and bones, and avoid health problems from Cushing's syndrome.
Eat a healthy diet
Take good care of yourself
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about Cushing's syndrome:
Living with Cushing's syndrome:
Other Works Consulted
Almeida MQ, Stratakis CA (2011). Cushing’s syndrome. In ET Bope et al., eds., Conn’s Current Therapy 2011, pp. 653–659. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Carroll TB, et al. (2011). Glucocorticoids and adrenal androgens. In DG Gardner, D Shoback, eds., Greenspan’s Basic and Clinical Endocrinology, 9th ed., pp. 285–327. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Loriaux DL (2009). Adrenal. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 3, chap. 4. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Nieman L, et al. (2008). The diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 93(5): 1526–1540.
Stewart PM, Krone NP (2011). The adrenal cortex. In S Melmed et al., eds., Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed., pp. 479–544. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.