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Q.

What are the signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome?

 

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A.

Signs and symptoms of Cushing's syndrome vary, but most people with the disorder have upper body obesity, a rounded face, increased fat around the neck, and relatively slender arms and legs. Children tend to be obese with slowed growth rates.

Other signs appear in the skin, which becomes fragile and thin, bruises easily, and heals poorly. Purple or pink stretch marks may appear on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, and breasts. The bones are weakened, and routine activities such as bending, lifting, or rising from a chair may lead to backaches and rib or spinal column fractures.

Women with Cushing's syndrome usually have excess hair growth on their face, neck, chest, abdomen, and thighs. Their menstrual periods may become irregular or stop. Men may have decreased fertility with diminished or absent desire for sex and, sometimes, erectile dysfunction.

Other common signs and symptoms include

  • severe fatigue
  • weak muscles
  • high blood pressure
  • high blood glucose
  • increased thirst and urination
  • irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • a fatty hump between the shoulders

Sometimes other conditions have many of the same signs as Cushing's syndrome, even though people with these disorders do not have abnormally elevated cortisol levels. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome can cause menstrual disturbances, weight gain beginning in adolescence, excess hair growth, and impaired insulin action and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome-a combination of problems that includes excess weight around the waist, high blood pressure, abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, and insulin resistance-also mimics the symptoms of Cushing's syndrome.

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