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Cushing's Syndrome

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  • In-Depth

    What causes Cushing’s syndrome?

    Cushing’s syndrome—the overproduction of corticosteroids—may be caused by an overproduction of cortisol (the hormone that controls the adrenal gland) by the pituitary gland. Other causes of Cushing’s syndrome include:

    • certain lung cancers and other tumors outside the pituitary gland
    • benign (non-cancerous) or cancerous tumors on the adrenal gland(s)

    What are the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome?

    Children and adolescents with Cushing's syndrome experience weight gain, growth retardation and hypertension (high blood pressure). Other symptoms may include:

  • Tests

    How do doctors diagnose an overactive adrenal glands?

    In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, your child’s doctor will order specific blood and/or urine tests to measure hormone levels.

    How can doctors tell if my child has Cushing’s syndrome?

    In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, your child’s doctor may request some or all of the following procedures:

    • x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs onto film
    • 24-hour urinary test (urine is collected over a 24-hour period to measure corticosteroid hormones)
    • computerized tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body
    • dexamethasone suppression test (to differentiate whether the excess production of corticotropins originates from the pituitary gland or tumors elsewhere)
    • corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation test (to differentiate whether the cause is a pituitary tumor or an adrenal tumor)
  • How are overactive adrenal glands/Cushing's syndrome treated?

    Treatment for overactive adrenal glands may include surgical removal of growths on the adrenal gland(s) or the adrenal gland(s) itself. Your doctor may also prescribe medications that block the excessive production of certain hormones.

  • Your Story

    My battle with Cushing's disease

    Overactive Adrenal Glands (Cushing's Syndrome)

    You may not know by looking at me now, but I recently fought a battle. All my troubles started in January 2007, when I was 15 years old, and I began gaining weight. As the year went on, it only got worse and my weight gain became more and more noticeable with every passing week. Over the summer, I tried different weight-loss programs but nothing worked. It got to the point where none of my clothes fit me anymore. A red flag went up in July 2007 when I stopped getting my menstrual cycle. I went to the doctor, but she said it was probably from my rapid weight gain, and that once I lost some weight I would get it back, but just in case she referred me to a gynecologist. In December I started Weight Watchers and ran on the treadmill for one to two hours religiously, but I still was disappointed when I got on the scale. Every week I would only either gain or lose a little, then gain again. I didn't know what I was doing wrong, since I was following my points and filling up on water. I knew then that I was fighting a battle within my body for my health and self-esteem. Read more about Katie's battle with Cushing's Disease.

    An update on Katie's battle with Cushing's Disease from Dream Online (Winter 2009)

    There and back again: A slideshow of Katie's battle with Cushing's Disease

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