Prolonged elevation of cortisol can cause weight gain and fatty tissue deposits around the midsection, upper back, face, and between the shoulders, explains Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms include pink or purple stretch marks on the abdomen, thighs, breasts and arms; thinning or fragile skin; and acne.
Women with elevated cortisol levels experience menstrual irregularities and the appearance of thicker or more visible hair on the body and face, according to Mayo Clinic. Symptoms in men include infertility, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. Persistent cortisol elevation can be caused by corticosteroid medications, pituitary gland tumors, ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors, primary adrenal gland disease and familial Cushing syndrome.