Cushing’s Disease is the result of an excess or cortisol in the body. The body’s anterior pituitary produces too much cortisol or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), an American doctor who is known as the “father of modern neurosurgery,” was the first to describe the disease, in 1932.
There are numerous common symptoms of Cushing’s disease, including weight gain, high blood pressure, poor short-term memory, excess hair growth in women, fatigue, and excess fat around the neck. However, most characteristic symptoms of Cushing’s disease only present in a minority of patients, making diagnosis difficult. Multiple tests are generally performed in order to make a proper diagnosis.
The first prescribed treatment for Cushing’s disease is a surgical resection of the pituitary adenoma, a tumor in the pituitary gland generally responsible for excess hormone secretion. Radiation therapy is another option following an unsuccessful surgery. Some individuals may choose what is known as bilateral adrenalectomy, the removal of the adrenal glands, but this requires lifelong replacement therapy for glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid hormones.
Cushing’s disease is quite rare. The average incidence of it is 2.4 cases per million annually. However, because of difficult diagnosis, it is usually discovered several years after the onset of symptoms.