The cause of Cushing's syndrome is overproduction of glucocorticoids, hormones produced in the adrenal cortex. These hormones regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, less fat and proteins. The adrenal gland, as the term suggests, is a pair organ located in close proximity to the kidney, is triangular and its size is 5 x 1.5 x 0.5 cm. Anatomically speaking they lie near the spine, at the level of the 11th rib. They consist of two functionally distinct parts, the cortex and medulla. Both cortex and medulla produce important hormones. The adrenal glands are essential organs involved in a complex system of hormonal regulation of our body. Disorders of hormone production lead to various diseases; one of them is Cushing's syndrome.
Cushing's syndrome and cortisol
You can imagine the hormones, as letters, which distant organs use to communicate with each other. These "letters" are sent to the organs by blood. This ingenious system of our body guarantees that everything works as it should, that the "letter" - a hormone gets to the correct address and informs the correct addressee. Each organ has its exact location and a different "mailbox", where only the letters of the "right" size and shape fit. This ensures that the letter is received "in to good hands" - to the correct organ.
What are the functions of cortisol and what causes its abundance? As any excess it leads to the enhancement of the effects of this hormone. This leads to Cushing's syndrome. Cortisol is essential for carbohydrate metabolism and its excess causes an increase in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and diabetes-like symptoms. Extreme volumes of urine are produced, up to 6 liters per day. Fluid loss by the urine is then compensated by great thirst and craving for sweets. Cortisol also increases protein breakdown. The basic building blocks of proteins are amino acids; they are used by the liver to produce glucose. Abundance of cortisol leads to loss of muscle mass and fat redistribution, thinning of the skin, which is then very thin, highly vulnerable and is similar to a sheet of parchment. On the skin of the abdomen in Cushing's syndrome appear purple-red striae. It also causes osteoporosis, which is bone loss, with subsequent increased risk of fractures. High levels of cortisol or other glucocorticoids inhibit the activity of the immune system. Typically then appear skin infections, especially mycosis between the fingers of the hands and feet. In addition, it causes high blood pressure, increase in blood fats, cholesterol, risk of heart, blood vessel and brain diseases. It may also cause gastric and duodenal ulcers or complicate existing conditions. Many of these symptoms occur in the so-called Cushing's syndrome.
Frequently asked questions about Cushing's syndrome?
What is the cause of Cushing's syndrome?
Abundance of cortisol.
When to consider Cushing's syndrome?
For this syndrome there are three most typical symptoms. Very characteristic is a type of obesity, i.e. accumulation of fat in the abdomen. Further round ,,moon-face", which contrasts with thin legs. Another symptom is fatigue and osteoporosis manifested by pain in the spine.
What are the other symptoms of Cushing's syndrome?
Onset of new diabetes, high blood pressure, there are also mental changes from an increase in appetite, through insomnia, euphoria to unexplained confusion states (psychoses).
Cushing's syndrome may be associated with disorders of the menstrual cycle?
Diagnosis and treatment of Cushing's syndrome
If you have the above mentioned symptoms, immediately contact your general physician or a specialist endocrinologist doctor (branch of internal medicine dealing with disorders of the endocrine glands). Treatment must be followed by a specialist in endocrinology. Cushing's syndrome can be diagnosed by blood analysis and using ultrasound or other imaging methods. Treatment of Cushing's syndrome is essential because an untreated disease is very risky and can lead to death. There is a risk of cardiac complications, stroke, complications associated with diabetes and also disrupted coping with stressful situations.