Cushings Syndrome



High levels of this hormone may be caused by:

  • Long-term use of corticosteroid hormones, such as cortisone or prednisone
  • Excess production of cortisol from a:
    • Tumor or abnormality of the adrenal gland
    • Tumor or abnormality of the pituitary gland. A person with a pituitary tumor has Cushing disease.
    • Tumors of the lung , thyroid , kidney , pancreas , or thymus gland (rare)
Pituitary and Adrenal Glands
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Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who use corticosteroids to treat problems, such as:

  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis



Problems may be:

  • Weight gain in the upper body and trunk
  • Rounded face
  • Severe fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Easily bruised, thin skin
  • Purple stretch marks
  • Excess hair growth or acne in women
  • Menstrual problems, especially irregular or absent periods
  • Low fertility and interest in sex
  • Personality changes or mood swings


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests, urine tests, and saliva tests to check a person's levels of cortisol.

Images may be taken to look at the pituitary and adrenal glands and at other internal structures. This may be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Chest x-ray
  • Bone density test



Treatment of Cushing syndrome depends on the cause. Options are:

  • Stopping or changing corticosteroids
  • Surgical removal of a tumor
  • Surgical removal of part, all, or both adrenal glands
  • Radiation therapy to treat lasting tumors
  • Drugs that decrease the amount of cortisol the body makes or block the way other adrenal products work


The risk of this problem may be lowered by limiting long-term corticosteroid use.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.