NEED TO KNOW: According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 10-15 per million people are affected by Cushing's syndrome every single year.


Cushing’s syndrome occurs from excess exposure to cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It can be caused by long-term use of steroids like prednisone, but also from a pituitary, adrenal or ectopic tumor.

Difficult to peg

Cushing’s causes many seemingly unrelated health problems. Most patients experience weight gain, particularly in the stomach and develop a round puffy face. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, diabetes, high blood pressure, menstrual changes, thin skin, bruising, stria, poor wound healing, infections, acne, sleep disorders, osteoporosis or psychological and cognitive issues.

Because the symptoms are often considered individually, or attributed to another condition, Cushing’s is often overlooked or misdiagnosed.

'“Patients who had a long delay in diagnosis have more persistent co-morbidities and lower quality of life, thus early diagnosis is key.”'

“Physicians should consider the entire clinical picture for each patient,” says endocrinologist Dr. James Findling. “Cushing’s syndrome may develop over many years, and the signs and symptoms are often subtle and attributed to other, more common problems.”

Treatment options

Cushing’s is diagnosed using lab tests and eventually imaging. In most cases, Cushing’s can be successfully treated by surgery.

“Treatment will improve many signs and symptoms of Cushing's, but quality of life will continue to be affected in ​the majority of patients,” adds endocrinologist Dr. Maria Fleseriu. “Patients who had a long delay in diagnosis have more persistent co-morbidities and lower quality of life, thus early diagnosis is key.”