Cushing's Disease

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Symptoms of Cushing's Disease

The classic symptoms of Cushing’s disease are a rounded face (often called a “moon face”) and fatty deposits that cause upper body obesity or a hump between the shoulders. Other symptoms and consequences may include:

  • Acne
  • Disruptions in the menstrual cycle
  • Excess body hair
  • Diminished libido or other sexual dysfunction
  • Thinning skin, frequent bruising
  • Headache or backache
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Mood changes
  • High blood pressure
  • Bone pain (weakened bones can lead to easy fractures)
  • Thirst, or increased urination
  • Depression/irritability/psychosis
  • Elevated sugars
  • Elevated blood pressure

Many of these symptoms are highly suggestive of a hormonal disorder, but patients don’t always report all their symptoms — for example, a woman may talk to her gynecologist about menstrual changes without mentioning her headaches or bruising. When taken together, however, these symptoms point strongly in the direction of a hormone problem and the individual should be referred for blood tests to look at hormone levels. (See Diagnosing and Treating Cushing’s Disease.)

Patients diagnosed with a pituitary tumor should be referred to a major medical center with an expert team of pituitary specialists. At the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, patients will be evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team that includes neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, endocrinologists, and neuroradiologists. If surgery is recommended, it will be performed by a neurosurgeon with advanced skills in minimally invasive procedures to remove pituitary tumors. (See Surgery for a Pituitary Tumor.)

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Reviewed by: Theodore Schwartz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: January 2015