Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Cushing's syndrome from The Chambers Dictionary

a condition characterized by obesity, raised blood pressure, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, etc, caused by excess amounts of corticosteroid hormones in the body due to an adenoma of the pituitary gland (Cushing's disease), or a malignant tumour elsewhere. [Described by HW Cushing (1869–1939), American surgeon]


Summary Article: Cushing’s Syndrome
from Encyclopedia of Special Education: A Reference for the Education of Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Disabilities and Other Exceptional Individuals

Cushing’s syndrome, or hypercortisolism, is a hormonal disorder that is caused by an excess of the hormone cortisol. The syndrome is relatively rare, and its etiology has been traced to an abnormal functioning of the pituitary gland. Other causes may be as the result of high doses of cortisol or other glucocorticoid (steroid) hormones taken for prolonged periods of time for the treatment of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or certain allergies (Shin,). The syndrome is distinguishable from Cushing’s disease in that the latter involves tumors in the pituitary that cause the excessive amounts of cortisol.

This condition most commonly affects adults ages 20 to 50 (Shin,). Although the condition has been found to occur up to 5 times more frequently in females of reproductive age, there have been reports of occurrence at all ages in both males and females (Krieger,).

If the syndrome occurs as the result of taking hormonal steroids, withdrawing the steroids allows the body eventually to go back to normal. For Cushing’s disease, in which tumors are present in the pituitary gland, surgery or radiation therapy have been found to be successful in the majority of cases. Several drugs (Mitotane, aminoglutethimide, metyrapone, and ketoconazole) help inhibit cortisol production (National Organization for Rare Disorders [NORD], ). Most of the clinical manifestations, and particularly growth arrest in children, are reversible with the correction of the adrenocortical hyperfunction (Binder & Hall,). Treatment may last anywhere from 2 to 18 months (Shin,).

Children who develop Cushing’s syndrome may be eligible for special education services under the handicapping condition of Other Health Impairment or Physical Disability. Because frequent visits to the doctor are necessary during treatment, the child will most likely have many absences from school. Counseling that is sensitive to chronic illnesses should be considered, especially in light of the length of treatment and the physically undesirable characteristics associated with the disease. There is a possibility that the child will suffer from depression. Occupational therapy may also be considered for students whose symptoms include weak muscles.

The National Institutes of Health are currently researching use of the drug RU 486, a glucocorticoid antagonist, for treatment. Research is also being conducted with the drug octreotide acetate, which may shrink the tumors associated with Cushing’s syndrome. Scientists are also conducting better testing methods for diagnosis. Such methods include studying fluids that have been drained from the pituitary gland to detect hormone levels that relate to the presence of pituitary tumors (NORD,).

References
  • Binder, C.; Hall, P. (Ed.). (1972). Cushing’s syndrome: Diagnosis and treatment. William Heinemann Medical Books London UK.
  • Krieger, D. (1982). Cushing’s syndrome. Springer-Verlag New York NY.
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders. (1999). Cushing syndrome. Retrieved from http://rarediseases.org.
  • Shin, L. (Ed.). (1999). Endocrine and metabolic disorders sourcebook: Basic information for the layperson about pancreatic and insulin-related disorders. Omnigraphics Detroit MI.
  • Christine D. C. de Baca
    University of Northern Colorado Greeley Colorado
    Copyright © 2014 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Related Articles


    Full text Article Cushing’s Syndrome
    Encyclopedia of Special Education: A Reference for the Education of Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Disabilities and Other Exceptional Individuals

    Cushing’s syndrome, or hypercortisolism, is a hormonal disorder that is caused by an excess of the hormone cortisol. The syndrome is relatively rare

    Full text Article Cushing's Syndrome
    The Encyclopedia of Neuropsychological Disorders

    DESCRIPTION Cushing's syndrome (CS) is a hormonal disorder caused by prolonged exposure to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol in...

    Full text Article Cushing's Syndrome, Hyperadrenocorticism
    Black's Veterinary Dictionary

    This has been recognised and treated in the dog, occurring usually after the age of five years, and in the cat. It is also seen in old horses and po

    See more from Credo