What Are Some Signs of Cushing's Disease?


Quick Answer

Signs of Cushing's disease include the development of a fatty hump between the shoulders, obesity concentrated in the upper body, skin infections, weakened muscles and thin skin on the arms, MedlinePlus states. In women, unusual body hair growth, including on the face and neck, is another sign.

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Women with Cushing's disease often experience irregular menstrual cycles, which may stop altogether, explains MedlinePlus. Men often experience decreased libido and impotence. Both sexes may experience thinning bones, to the point that fractures occur in the spine or ribs. Other signs include mental changes such as depression or anxiety, along with physical symptoms such as headache, fatigue, increased urination and increased thirst. Many people with Cushing's disease have very rounded, ruddy faces.

Cushing's disease occurs because a tumor in the pituitary gland causes the body to release too much cortisol, a stress hormone, MedlinePlus says. Cortisol regulates the body's use of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and reduces the immune system's response to inflammation. Urine and saliva tests can both help doctors detect elevated cortisol levels, while both blood tests and an MRI scan can help detect the presence of a pituitary tumor. If a tumor is found, it requires surgery to remove. Radiation treatments and cortisol suppressors may be needed if the tumor cannot be fully removed.

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