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Endocrinology (Diabetes and Metabolism) >
Overactive Adrenal Glands
Your adrenal glands help control important hormones that regulate a number of vital functions in your body.
Problems or disorders of the adrenal glands can have serious health consequences.
Your Marshfield Clinic Endocrinologist diagnoses and treats all problems with the endocrine system.
Cushing syndrome is a hormonal disorder. It’s caused when you have high levels of the hormone cortisol over a long time. Cushing syndrome is fairly rare. It most often affects adults who are 20 to 50 years old. It is sometimes called hypercortisolism.
Cushing syndrome happens when you have too many corticosteroids in your body. The disorder starts with the pituitary gland. The gland makes too much adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH). That causes the adrenal glands to make too many corticosteroids.
Another main cause is taking steroid medicines like prednisone for a long time. These are sometimes used to treat chronic diseases such as asthma. Other causes include:
Certain lung cancers
Benign or cancerous tumors on the adrenal glands
An inherited endocrine disorder
You may be more likely to get Cushing syndrome if you:
Are overweight or obese
Have type 2 diabetes that is not under control and have high blood pressure
Each person may have symptoms in a different way. These are the most common signs and symptoms:
Upper body obesity
Increased fat around neck or a fatty hump between the shoulders
Thinning arms and legs
Fragile and thin skin
Stretch marks on abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, and breasts
Bone and muscle weakness
Severe tiredness (fatigue)
High blood pressure
High blood sugar
Irritability and anxiety
Extra facial and body hair growth in women
Irregular or stopped menstrual cycles in women
Reduced sex drive and fertility in men
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your past health. You will also need an exam. These procedures may also help with a diagnosis:
24-hour urinary test to measure the level of corticosteroid hormones
CT scan. This scan uses X-rays and computer technology to make images of the body.
MRI. This scan creates 2-D views of an internal organ or structure.
Dexamethasone suppression test. This test can tell whether the extra production of hormones is from the pituitary gland or from a tumor elsewhere in your body.
Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation test. This test can tell whether the cause is a tumor on the pituitary gland or the adrenal gland.
Other laboratory tests
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
How old you are
Your overall health and past health
How sick you are
How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
How long the condition is expected to last
Your opinion or preference
Treatment depends on what is causing Cushing syndrome. You may need surgery to remove tumors or the adrenal glands. Other treatments may include:
Certain hormone-inhibiting medicines
Cushing syndrome happens when pituitary gland makes too much adrenocorticotropin hormone. That causes the adrenal glands to make too many corticosteroids.
Cushing syndrome is fairly rare. It most often affects adults who are 20 to 50 years old.
Symptoms may include upper body obesity, round face, and thin skin.
Treatment depends on the cause. It may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or medicines.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
(Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. And millions more have diabetes but don't know it, the CDC says. Yet diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. See how much you know about this long-term disease by taking this quiz.
People with diabetes most often have type 2. You are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
You are also at risk if you have prediabetes or had gestational diabetes. You are also at risk if you are of a certain ethnic background. This type of diabetes was once seen just in adults. Today more children and teens are being diagnosed with it.
Diabetes can affect many parts of your body. It can lead to serious health problems. These include:
You can help prevent these problems by keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels under control.