Too much cortisol in the body for long periods of time is responsible for the classic Cushing's disease symptoms. Cushing's disease symptoms will vary among patients. Symptoms of Cushing's disease also vary based on the person's age.
Cushing's disease symptoms can include:
- Extreme weight gain, especially around the midsection and upper back
- Excess hair growth
- Purplish-pink stretch marks on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, and breasts
- High blood pressure
- Skin problems
- Growth retardation
- Either very early or late puberty
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle weakness
- Menstrual disorders in women
- Moodiness, irritability, or depression
- Decreased fertility in men
- Diminished or absent desire for sex.
(Click Symptoms of Cushing's Disease for more information.)
In order to make a diagnosis, the doctor will typically ask a number of questions about things such as:
- The patient's medical history
- His or her current symptoms
- Whether there is a family history of any medical problems
- Any medicines the patient is taking.
The doctor will also usually perform a physical exam, looking for any signs of Cushing's disease. If these suggest Cushing's disease, more tests are done.
Testing for Cushing's disease generally involves a two-step process. First, doctors order tests to see if there is too much cortisol in the body. If so, then they call for tests to see if a pituitary adenoma is causing the excess cortisol. If a pituitary adenoma is causing the excess cortisol, the condition is diagnosed as Cushing's disease; if the excess cortisol is being caused by another condition, it is known as Cushing's syndrome.
Tests used for diagnosing Cushing's disease can include:
- A 24-hour urinary free cortisol level test
- Dexamethasone suppression test
- CRH stimulation test
- Imaging tests
- Petrosal sinus sampling.
(Click Cushing's Disease Diagnosis for more information.)