Cushing's syndrome Information
Cushing's syndrome, also known as hypercortisolism, occurs when a person's tissues are
exposed to an excess of the hormone cortisol.
When the appropriate amount of cortisol is released by the adrenal glands, it helps
regulate blood pressure, energy production, the ability to fight disease, and how the body
maintains itself and responds to stress. But too much cortisol can alter the normal
function of these processes, resulting in the symptoms of Cushing's syndrome
Description of Cushing's syndrome
The adrenals are two glands, each perched on the upper part of the two kidneys. The
outer part of the gland is known as the cortex; the inner part is known as the medulla.
Each of these parts of the adrenal gland is responsible for producing different types of
hormones. Regulation of hormone production and release from the adrenal cortex involves
the pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland
releases a hormone called Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) which travels through the
bloodstream to the adrenal cortex, where it encourages the production and release of
cortisol and other steroid hormones.
Cortisol is a very potent hormone belonging to a class of hormones called steroids. It
is involved in regulating the functioning of nearly every type of organ and tissue
throughout the body, and is considered to be one of the few hormones absolutely necessary
for life. Cortisol is involved in:
- The very complex processing and utilization of many nutrients, including sugars
(carbohydrates), fats, and proteins
- The normal functioning of the circulatory system and the heart
- The functioning of muscles
- Normal kidney function
- Production of blood cells
- The normal processes involved in maintaining the skeletal system
- Proper functioning of the brain and nerves
- The normal responses of the immune system.
Cushing's syndrome results in too much cortisol production, which has an adverse effect
on all of the processes described above. Cushing's syndrome occurs in about 10-15 of every
one million people per year, usually striking adults between the ages of 20-50.