Cushings Disease in Humans


Cushings disease is a condition caused by too high of an amount of cortisol, creating a hormonal imbalance. It is relatively rare disease that affects ten out of every one million people. It is most common in adults between the ages of 20 to 50 years old. Because cortisol is involved in many body functions that maintain homeostasis and reverse the stress response, too much of this hormone can lead to many different symptoms.

Risk Factors

The majority of patients who have Cushings Disease are overweight and carry the extra weight in the upper trunk, face and neck. They usually have slender or normal size legs and arms. Type two diabetes and high blood pressure also are risk factors for Cushings Disease.


People with Cushings Disease have thin skin that bruises easily and does not heal well. Women may have excess hair on the face, trunk and thighs, while men may have decreased fertility.


Symptoms can include frail bones, fatigue, weak muscles, a fatty hump between the shoulders, anxiety and depression. Other symptoms are a red and rounded face, vertigo, blurred vision, acne and trouble sleeping.


Those at highest risk for Cushings Disease are patients taking steroid hormones that are closely related to cortisol. This includes common medications for asthma, arthritis and lupus.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose this condition your doctor will run urine, blood and saliva tests, as well as MRI or CT scans. Treatment for Cushings Disease includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and cortisol-inhibiting drugs. The treatment chosen depends on the exact cause of the excess cortisol.

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