Whenever there's a new service, or site, I like to try it out to reach as many people with Cushing's as possible. I know that all Cushies aren't on Facebook, or Twitter or even on the Cushing's Help message boards. So, I'm giving this a whirl :)
Cushing's syndrome, also known as hypercortisolism or hyperadrenocorticism, is an endocrine disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body's tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol (in the blood) from a variety of causes, including primary pituitary adenoma (known as Cushing's disease), primary adrenal hyperplasia or neoplasia, ectopic ACTH production (e.g., from a small cell lung cancer), and iatrogenic (steroid use). It is relatively rare and most commonly affects adults aged 20 to 50. An estimated 10 to 15 of every million people are affected each year. Cushing's was discovered by American physician, surgeon and endocrinologist Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) and reported by him in 1932.
Normally, cortisol is released from the adrenal glands in response to ACTH being released from the pituitary gland. Both Cushing's syndrome and Cushing's disease are characterized by elevated levels of cortisol in the blood, but the cause of elevated cortisol differs between the two.
- Cushing's disease specifically refers to a tumor in the pituitary gland that stimulates excessive release of cortisol from the adrenal glands by releasing large amounts of ACTH.
- In Cushing's syndrome, ACTH levels will normally drop due to negative feedback from the high levels of cortisol. All forms of Cushing's are correctly called Cushing's Syndrome.
Cushing's syndrome occurs when the body's tissues are exposed to excessive levels of cortisol for long periods of time. Cortisol helps maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function and is responsible for helping the body respond to stress. Many people suffer the symptoms of Cushing's syndrome because they take steroids such as prednisone for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other inflammatory diseases, or for immunosuppression after transplantation. Prednisone is well-known for a "bloating" look that it gives people who take it.
Others develop Cushing's syndrome because of overproduction of cortisol by the body due to a tumor on the pituitary (usually an adenoma or benign tumor of the pituitary glands) or adrenal glands, or elsewhere in the body Adrenal cancers, or other adrenal abnormalities may be the cause of Cushing’s Syndrome as well.
People who have been diagnosed with depression, alcoholism, malnutrition and panic attacks tend to have higher cortisol levels as well. These types of Cushing's may be called Pseudo-Cushing's.
The message boards are very active and we have weekly online chats, local meetings, email newsletters, a clothing exchange, a Cushing's Awareness Day Forum in honor of Dr. Harvey Cushing's birthday April 8, phone support and much more. Whenever one of the members of the boards gets into NIH, we try to go to visit them there. Other board members participate in the "Cushie Helper" program where they support others with one-on-one support, doctor/hospital visits, transportation issues and much more.