Cushing syndrome is a hormonal disorder in which the body has been exposed to high levels of cortisol for a long period of time. Treatments are available and depend on the cause of this disorder. Possible treatments include surgery, radiation therapy and medications.
Cortisol is a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress; it fluctuates throughout the day according to the body’s circadian rhythm. Cortisol performs many essential functions, such as raising blood glucose, maintaining blood pressure and suppressing inflammation. However, a chronic high level of cortisol has detrimental effects on the body and can lead to Cushing syndrome.
Although it is produced by the adrenal glands, cortisol is regulated by the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which travels to the adrenal glands and stimulates them to grow and produce cortisol. Too much ACTH can cause high levels of cortisol in the body and, in turn, Cushing syndrome.
Cushing syndrome is divided into two categories, according to the cause of the disorder:
Most often, Cushing syndrome can be attributed to an exogenous source, that is, glucocorticoids. Rarely is Cushing syndrome caused by an endogenous source, that is, by a tumor or by overactive adrenal glands.
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