By Dr. Anantharaman Ramakrishnan, Endocrinology
Sometimes referred to as hypercortisolism, Cushing’s disease generally appears as a hump between the shoulders, a round face, and purple or pink stretch marks on the skin, and can result in high blood pressure, bone loss and type 2 diabetes. It usually occurs when you get exposed to high levels of the “cortisol” hormone for a long time. It may also be caused by an uncalculated use of oral corticosteroid medications or if your body is producing too much “cortisol” on its own.
With effective treatment, cortisol levels will gradually stabilize and symptoms will eventually improve. It should be noted that the earlier you receive treatment, the better the outcome.
Depending upon the cause of the syndrome, treatment may vary accordingly. The design, however, of all treatment methods is to help lower excessive layers of cortisol hormone in your body. Here are a few possible treatment options:
1. Decreasing the Use of Corticosteroids
A long term use of corticosteroid medications is a leading factor in causing Cushing’s syndrome. If this is the case, you can help improve symptoms either by reducing the dosage over a period of time or by taking prescribed non-corticosteroid drugs.
If tumors are the cause, your doctor will most probably recommend a complete surgical removal. If the tumor originates in the lungs, pancreas or adrenal glands, it can be surgically removed either by standard operation or by using minimally invasive surgical techniques with relatively smaller incisions.
3. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is recommendable only if your pituitary gland cannot be removed completely or if you are not eligible for surgery.
If neither surgery nor radiation therapy works, you may have to resort to taking specific medications to help control cortisol production.