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Frequently Asked Questions About Hypercortisolism

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What is cortisol?

Cortisol is an important hormone, sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone.” It helps with the regulation of blood sugar, cardiovascular function, metabolism, inflammation, and memory formulation.

What is hypercortisolism?

Hypercortisolism is a disease that occurs when your body produces too much cortisol. Hypercortisolism is sometimes referred to as Cushing syndrome.

What causes hypercortisolism?

Hypercortisolism can be caused by taking corticosteroid medications, or by the body making too much cortisol on its own. When hypercortisolism develops from taking corticosteroid medicines, like steroids, it is called exogenous hypercortisolism. This means it results from something outside the body.

Hypercortisolism can also result from something inside the body, which is called endogenous hypercortisolism. This is usually a noncancerous tumor that is most likely on either the adrenal or pituitary gland; however, it also can occur elsewhere in the body.

What is the difference between hypercortisolism
and Cushing syndrome?

Symptoms of hypercortisolism and Cushing syndrome are different terms for the same condition. However, overt Cushing syndrome is often easier to diagnose. When Cushing syndrome is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, it is called Cushing Disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of hypercortisolism?

Physical symptoms associated with classically described overt Cushing syndrome include a fatty hump between the shoulders, weight gain around the mid-section, and pink or purple stretch marks. However, not everyone will display these classic symptoms. In fact, many people will have a constellation of different symptoms. Some other common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Menstrual irregularity

What are the consequences of hypercortisolism?

Hypercortisolism can impact all parts of the body, including serious problems with your bones and heart, uncontrollable diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can cause muscle weakness and problems with libido, obesity, and depression as well.

Who should be tested?

If you have some of these symptoms, you should ask your doctor if you should be tested.

Why is hypercortisolism difficult to diagnose?

Hypercortisolism can be difficult to diagnose because there are many nonspecific symptoms that are also common in the general population. These symptoms include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, and menstrual irregularity. This makes it difficult to distinguish between these groups of people, especially as there is no single correct method for diagnosing the condition.

What are the 3 main cortisol tests?

  • Overnight 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST)
  • Late-night salivary cortisol (LNST)
  • 24-hour urinary-free cortisol (UFC)

Can hypercortisolism be treated?

Yes, there are several options for the treatment of hypercortisolism, including surgery, radiotherapy, and medications.

What do I do if I think I might have hypercortisolism?

Talk to your doctor right away to see if you should be tested for hypercortisolism.

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