Hypercortisolism Causes And Symptoms
Have you heard of Hypercortisolism and would you like to know the causes and symptoms of this condition? Look no further. Here is a detailed article to help you understand the condition better.
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone is a life sustaining hormone ones needs to stay alive and function in a healthy way.
When one does not produce enough cortisol in the body they are known to have Adrenal Insufficiency. However when one produces too much cortisol and more than the body requires they will suffer from a condition referred to as Hypercortiolism or Cushings Disease.
What Causes Hypercortisolism?
One of the most common causes of Hypercortisolism and Cushings Disease is taking too many corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone and prednisone when taken in excess, can result in a patient suffering from the symptoms of Cushings Syndrome.
Cushings symptoms can be very problematic and can cause a whole array of unpleasant and debilitating symptoms to the body.
Other causes of Hypercortisolism and Cushings Disease could be depression, extreme emotional stress, alcohol consumption and often pituitary or adrenal gland tumours.
When the pituitary gland has a tumour, this can result in too much ACHT being sent to the Adrenal gland telling the adrenals to produce more cortisol than the body actually needs.
Likewise if there are one or multiple tumours on the actual Adrenal glands this can result in overproduction or the cortisol hormone again resulting in hypercortisolism.
In fact if you suffer from Addison’s Disease also known as primary adrenal Insufficiency or secondary adrenal insufficiency and you are on the wrong dose of corticosteroids this can result in Hypercortisolism.
What are the symptoms of Hypercortisolism?
When one suffers from too much cortisol they may experience any of the following symptoms.
- Weight gain. Too much cortisol can result in serious weight gain which can lead to other obesity related conditions.
- Muscle pain. Too much cortisol in the body can result in muscle pain and generalised weakness in the body.
- A moon shaped face. Excess corticosteroids or cortisol in the body will eventually result in the face becoming puffy and moon shaped. This happened to me whilst on too many steroids for my adrenal insufficiency and my face lost the puffiness many months later.
- Changes in the mental condition such as anxiety, depression or inability to concentrate and focus can result from hypercortisolism.
- Those suffering from Cushings disease often have excessive purple stretch marks around the torso, arms and legs.
- A neck hump or hunch will often develop on the neck of a patient suffering from hypercortisolism.
- Further symptoms can include an increase in thirst, urination and skin infections.
I think I have Cushings Disease what do I do?
If you have a number of symptoms which cause you to feel you may have hypercortisolism known as Cushings disease then the best course of action would be to visit your GP and request tests.
Tests for hypercortisolism can be conducted pretty quickly and can involve a urine test, blood sample or saliva test.
A blood sample to measure the levels of cortisol in the bloodstream is the most reliable and accurate way to get a diagnosis.
Cortisol levels change during the day according to the circadian rhythm of the body. Cortisol levels peak early in the morning and slowly reduce by the evening. Therefore the timing of the blood test needs to be considered when a sample is taken.
Treatment For Hypercortisolism
Treatment for excess cortisol in the blood stream is dependent on the cause and reason you have the condition.
If one has cushings disease due to taking too many corticosteroids, then the treatment may be to reduce and taper down medication until you are on the correct dose of medication.
If Cushings symptoms and hypercortisolism is a result of a tumour, the tumour will most likely need to be removed followed by radiotherapy treatment.
According to the NHS, Adrenal Tumours are usually non cancerous but still need treatment and removal due to the impact they have on cortisol levels in the body.
Sometimes when the adrenal gland has multiple tumours it will need to be removed. This will result in one being unable to produce cortisol, which the body will still need at the right levels. In this case a patient can go from suffering from Cushings to having Adrenal Insufficiency.
You may be interested in reading this personal story and experience of having Cushings Disease due to an adrenal gland tumour. After having the tumour removed Jill Smith of Denver.
After Hypercortisolism and Cushings Disease
If the cause of your Hypercortisolism is too much steroid medication, it can take some time for the body to adjust to the correct dose of corticosteroids. For myself it took some time to lose the moonface and the hump which had developed on face and neck after being given too much hydrocortisone.
Getting well again will take time but eventually the body will recover.
If you’ve had Cushings symptoms due to pituitary or adrenal tumours and now have adrenal insufficiency as a result of tumour removal, then life may be somewhat more complicated.
Adrenal Insufficiency can be life threatening. When the body does not receive enough cortisol the body can go into adrenal crisis which will eventually lead to death.
If you are now have Adrenal Insufficiency then your endocrinologist should provide you will daily corticosteroids and will conduct tests such as a cortisol day curve to ensure your on the correct dose of steroids to not be too low or too high in cortisol.
You will need to be monitored regularly for the remainder of your life as living with Adrenal Insufficiency is not an easy thing. Life may not be as it once but there is a lot of support out there to help you come to terms with your new found condition and the struggles with come from the illness.
I really hope you found this useful.