Cushings syndrome vs. Cushings disease

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

What is the difference between Cushing's syndrome and Cushing's disease?

Doctor's response

Any condition that causes the adrenal gland to produce excessive cortisol results in the disorder Cushing's syndrome. Cushing syndrome is characterized by facial and torso obesity, high blood pressure, stretch marks on the belly, weakness, osteoporosis, and facial hair growth in females.

Cushing's syndrome has many possible causes including tumors within the adrenal gland, adrenal gland stimulating hormone (ACTH) produced from cancer such as lung cancer, and ACTH excessively produced from a pituitary tumors within the brain. ACTH is normally produced by the pituitary gland (located in the center of the brain) to stimulate the adrenal glands' natural production of cortisol, especially in times of stress.

When a pituitary tumor secretes excessive ACTH, the disorder resulting from this specific form of Cushing's syndrome is referred to as Cushing's disease.

As an aside, it should be noted that doctors will sometimes describe certain patients with features identical to Cushing's syndrome as having 'Cushingoid' features. Typically, these features are occurring as side effects of cortisone-related medications, such as prednisone and prednisolone.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018
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