Cushing’s Syndrome: Causes & Symptoms

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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Cushing’s syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when the body is exposed to high levels of a stress hormone for extended periods of time.

What is Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s syndrome happens when there is too much of the hormone cortisol in the body. It occurs when the adrenal glands produce large amounts of cortisol, which is why it is also called hypercortisolism. Sometimes, those suffering from this syndrome also make too much of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) hormone, which stimulates cortisol production and release into the system.

Note: When the ACTH hormone is primarily released by the pituitary gland, it is called Cushing’s disease.



The high levels of cortisol that cause Cushing’s syndrome could be because of the following:

  • Tumors in the adrenal gland
  • Various cancers
  • Drugs like glucocorticoids
  • Athletic training
  • Malnutrition
  • Alcoholism
  • Depression, emotional disturbances
  • Familial Cushing syndrome


The following combination of symptoms and the imbalanced hormone levels can be truly debilitating:

  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Easy bruising
  • Swelling of the face (moon face) and neck
  • Lower fertility
  • Fatigue
  • Diabetes
  • Mood swings
  • A fatty hump between the shoulders (buffalo hump)
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Increased thirst
  • Bone loss
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