Cushing's Disease Defined

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When high doses of steroids are taken for a long period, the result is Cushing's disease. Drugs such as prednisone, dexamethasone or hydrocortisone are often used in excessive amounts to treat life-threatening illnesses (asthma, certain allergies, or rheumatoid arthritis, for example).

Unfortunately, Cushing's becomes a necessary side-effect. It happens when the pituitary gland produced too much cortisol in the adrenals. Experts divide the causes into two groups: The first are due to excessive amounts of ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone); the second is independent of ACTH.

The most common cause is a pituitary tumor that stimulates the adrenals to grow, thus producing an excess of cortisol. This is known as Cushing's disease and it is liable for approximately 70 percent of spontaneous Cushing's.

To be clear, there are other, serious causes for this problem. If ACTH is being produced outside the pituitary gland, in a lung tumor – benign or malignant – or thymus gland, pancreas, or other organ, it is referred to as "ectopic ACTH production."

Little is known about what causes these tumors. Scientists have only been able to determine that genetics, immunity and environmental factors do not play a role in their occurrence. What is known is that nearly all types of spontaneous Cushing's are caused by tumors.

Symptoms vary, but most sufferers will have upper body fat, rounded faces, and increased fat around the neck. They also have thinning arms and legs. Children tend to be obese and appear to have slowed growth rates.

The skin is fragile and thin, bruises easily and does not heal well. Purplish-pink stretch marks can appear on the abdomen, thighs, arms and breasts. The bones are weak and routine activities, lifting or rising from a chair, may lead to aches – sometimes even rib and spinal fractures.

Cushing's is a disease that the scientific community at-large is still learning about. Advances in technology continue to improve their knowledge. Alternative treatments have also proved to aid those who suffer from this disease.

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Source by Janet Markowitz

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