Pregnancy Could Be Linked to Onset of Cushing’s Symptoms

More than 25 percent of women with Cushing’s disease experienced their first symptoms within one year of giving birth, a small study by the Pacific Neuroscience Institute found.

The findings suggest a possible causal relationship between the biological stress of pregnancy and Cushing’s disease (CD), with more than a two-fold risk of women developing the disease within one year of pregnancy.

The study, “Pregnancy-associated Cushing’s disease? An exploratory retrospective study,” was published in the journal Pituitary.

Eighty percent of Cushing’s disease cases are women, and most are of reproductive age.

Levels of the body’s main stress hormone, cortisol, normally increase during pregnancy. In the last weeks before birth, cortisol levels are two to three times higher than normal, similar to Cushing’s disease.

Because cortisol levels gradually increase during pregnancy, a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease within the gestation period is problematic.

Circumstantial “evidence suggests a higher incidence of CD immediately following pregnancy, in the peripartum period [a few weeks after childbirth],” the study’s authors wrote.

To shed additional light on the matter, researchers retrospectively investigated the frequency of Cushing’s disease onset related to pregnancy.

A total of 64 women with biochemically-diagnosed Cushing’s disease and treated at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, from July 2007 to December 2017 were included in this study.

For the analysis, patients were divided into three groups:

  1. Women with pregnancy-associated CD: “defined as symptom-onset within 1 year of pregnancy that was explicitly linked to the pregnancy by the patient’s own recollection of her pregnancy and subsequent symptoms related to CD”;
  2. Women of reproductive age: “defined as age 15–45 years, in whom CD onset was not associated temporally with pregnancy within the past year”;
  3. Women not of reproductive age at the time of CD onset.

Results showed that 64 percent of the patients were of childbearing age at the time of diagnosis. Of these, 27 percent (11 women) had pregnancy-associated Cushing’s disease. This might be due to small, slow-growing or dormant corticotroph pituitary adenomas that were stimulated by pregnancy-related hormonal changes; however, this hypothesis was not confirmed by the researchers.

On average, patients in group 1 had two pregnancies prior to Cushing’s disease onset, compared to zero for 30 other women with disease onset during reproductive age. This suggests that undergoing the biological stress of pregnancy more than once could play a role in Cushing’s development.

“Another possible explanation of the association between CD and pregnancy is simply that patients are more likely to remember the onset of their CD symptoms in relation to a landmark life event such as pregnancy and childbirth, which leads to long-term physical changes in most women, irrespective of Cushing’s status,” the researchers noted.

In contrast, 19 of the 30 patients at reproductive age without pregnancy-associated disease had no pregnancies before being diagnosed, which weakens the association between pregnancy and Cushing’s and draws attention to various other factors that may also be involved in disease onset, apart from gestation-related hormonal changes.

The time from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis for women with pregnancy-related disease varied from two to six years.

“It was in fact weight gain or failure to lose weight post-pregnancy, which was the most frequent complaint and presentation in our patients with pregnancy-associated CD, and which often lead to an eventual diagnosis of CD,” the researchers stated.

“As such, appropriate biochemical testing may be indicated in women who 6–18 months after pregnancy, are still unable to lose the weight of pregnancy, continue to gain weight, have new, persistent or more [treatment-resistant] hypertension and diabetes mellitus, and/or other classical stigmata of CD,” they suggested.

All patients with biochemically-confirmed Cushing’s disease underwent surgery to remove pituitary adenoma. Sustained surgical remission rates for groups 1, 2, and 3 were 91%, 80%, and 83%, respectively.

“This possible association suggests a heightened degree of clinical suspicion and biochemical testing for CD may be warranted after childbirth. Further study of this possible link between pregnancy and CD is warranted,” the team concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/21/cushings-disease-symptoms-onset-pregnancy-could-be-linked-study-suggests/

8 medical conditions that could cause sudden weight gain

Weight gain can be associated with hormonal conditions, mood disorders, or other physiological factors. A sudden and unexplained weight gain could be your body’s way of signalling an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. For the sake of health and long-term well-being, it is important to differentiate between a few harmless extra kilos and a fluctuation that could be hiding a bigger problem. You can only be certain after consulting a healthcare practitioner.

If the weighing scale says your numbers are up but you haven’t changed your eating and exercise habits, you might consider any of the 8 medical conditions:

1.     Hypothyroidism The American Thyroid Association reveals that one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. Hypothyroidism refers to an underactive thyroid. The thyroid controls several body functions and your metabolism is one of them. If you’re not producing enough thyroid hormone your body can’t burn as much energy. Symptoms appear throughout your system. They include: weight gain, exhaustion, drier skin, thinner hair, bloating, muscle weakness, constantly feeling cold, and constipation. Once diagnosis is confirmed a doctor can prescribe an oral replacement for thyroid hormone that can relieve symptoms within weeks.

2.     Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) One in 10 women of childbearing age undergoes PCOS. It is an endocrine disorder characterised by an imbalance in the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone.  This results in irregular periods, acne and even facial hair growth. The disorder also disrupts the way the body uses insulin — which is the hormone responsible for converting carbohydrates into energy. As a result the sugars and starches you consume are stored as fat instead of energy, thus, weight gain. PCOS has no cure but women who have it can manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. A doctor’s consultation will help you find an appropriate method.

3. Insomnia Avoid fake news! Subscribe to the Standard SMS service and receive factual, verified breaking news as it happens. Text the word ‘NEWS’ to 22840 Sleep deprivation can negatively impact both your metabolism and your hunger hormones. Sleeping too little increases ghrelin, the hormone that signals the body that it’s time to eat, while lowering leptin, the hormone that says you are full. The result: increased cravings and snacking to get more energy through the day. Insomnia increases impulsive eating. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the right amount of sleep could mean consuming up to 10 fewer grams of sugar throughout the day.

4.     Tumours Weight gain around your belly as opposed to your lower body or other areas can be more dangerous to your health. Large pelvic area tumours like uterine or ovarian tumours can inflate the abdomen the way excess fat does. In some cases they can also be cancerous. In addition to weight gain, symptoms of ovarian or uterine tumours include vaginal bleeding, lower back pain, constipation and painful intercourse. But these signs are common for other conditions as well so it‘s worth confirming with a doctor to rule out any possible complications.

5. Peri menopause and menopause Perimenopause -the transition period to menopause can start as early as a woman’s mid-thirties, but usually starts in their forties. This period triggers hormones like oestrogen to rise and fall unevenly, which can cue weight gain in some women. Genetics are a good starting point on how your body experiences these changes, so it would be helpful to look into how it affected your mother and other older women in your family. Other signs of perimenopause are mood swings, irregular periods, hot flashes, and changes in libido. Age also contributes to loss of muscle mass and increase in body fat. An Ob-Gyn should be able to talk you through these changes and recommend management options.

6.     Mood disorders Depression and anxiety can result in fatigue, lack of focus and irritability. Some people cope with anxious or sad feelings by mindlessly munching on food they don’t really need. Additionally chronic stress throws your body into fight-or-flight mode, leading to a surge of adrenaline, as well as a heavy dose of the hormone cortisol –responsible for restoring energy reserves and storing fat.

7. Cushing syndrome Sometimes tumours on the pituitary or adrenal glands can contribute to a condition known as Cushing’s disease which is characterised by high levels of cortisol in the blood. Taking long term steroids could also result in this disease. Patients with Cushing syndrome will experience rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen and chest. They also display slender arms and legs compared to the heavy weight in the core of the body. Other symptoms include: high blood pressure, mood swings, osteoporosis, discoloured stretch marks, acne, and fragile skin. Depending on the cause, Cushing‘s disease can be treated in a different ways.

8. New medication Before starting on any new prescription medication, ask your doctor if weight gain is a possible side effect. Birth control pills may lead to weight gain depending on the brand, dosage, and the person’s hormonal levels. Psychiatric medications, especially for depression and bipolar disorder, have been known to cause weight gain, as they target the brain. Similarly, taking insulin to manage diabetes or medications that treat high blood pressure can also lead to extra kilos, so staying active and sticking to a strict meal plan can help you take insulin without unnecessarily weight gain.

Adapted from https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2001297348/8-medical-conditions-that-could-cause-sudden-weight-gain

Fluconazole Found to Be Safe Alternative for Patient with Recurrent Cushing’s

Treatment with fluconazole after cabergoline eased symptoms and normalized cortisol levels in a patient with recurrent Cushing’s disease who failed to respond to ketoconazole, a case study reports.

The case report, “Fluconazole as a Safe and Effective Alternative to Ketoconazole in Controlling Hypercortisolism of Recurrent Cushing’s Disease: A Case Report,” was published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism.

Ketoconazole, (brand name Nizoral, among others) is an anti-fungal treatment used off-label for Cushing’s disease to prevent excess cortisol production, a distinct symptom of the disease. However, severe side effects associated with its use often result in treatment discontinuation and have led to its unavailability or restriction in many countries.

Consequently, there is a need for alternative medications that help manage disease activity and clinical symptoms without causing adverse reactions, and that could be given to patients who do not respond to ketoconazole treatment.

In this case report, researchers in Malaysia reported on a 50-year-old woman who fared well with fluconazole treatment after experiencing severe side effects with ketoconazole.

The woman had been in remission for 16 years after a transsphenoidal surgery — a minimally invasive brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor — but went to the clinic with a three-year history of high blood pressure and gradual weight gain.

She also showed classic symptoms of Cushing’s disease: moon face, fragile skin that bruised easily, and purple stretch marks on her thighs.

Blood and urine analysis confirmed high cortisol levels, consistent with a relapse of the pituitary tumor. Accordingly, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of her brain showed the presence of a small tumor on the right side of the pituitary gland, confirming the diagnosis of recurrent Cushing’s disease.

Doctors performed another transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumor, and a brain MRI then confirmed the success of the surgery. However, her blood and urine cortisol levels remained markedly high, indicating persistent disease activity.

The patient refused radiation therapy or adrenal gland removal surgery, and was thus prescribed ketoconazole twice daily for managing the disease. But after one month on ketoconazole, she experienced low cortisol levels.

Hydrocortisone — a synthetic cortisol hormone — was administered to maintain steady cortisol levels. However, she developed severe skin itching and peeling, which are known side effects of ketoconazole. She also suffered a brain bleeding episode, for which she had to have a craniotomy to remove the blood clot.

Since she experienced adverse effects on ketoconazole, which also hadn’t decreased her disease activity, the doctors switched her to cabergoline. Cabergoline (marketed as Dostinex, among others) is a dopamine receptor agonist that has been shown to be effective in managing Cushing’s disease.

But cabergoline treatment also did not lower the disease activity, and her symptoms persisted.

The doctors then added fluconazole (marketed as Diflucan, among others), an anti-fungal medication, based on studies that showed promising results in managing Cushing’s syndrome. Three months after the addition of fluconazole to her treatment plan, the patient’s clinical symptoms and cortisol levels had responded favorably.

At her next clinical visit 15 months later, her condition remained stable with no adverse events.

“This case demonstrates the long-term efficacy of fluconazole in tandem with cabergoline for the control of recurrent Cushing’s disease,” the researchers wrote.

The favorable outcome in this case also “supports the notion that fluconazole is a viable substitute for ketoconazole in the medical management of this rare but serious condition,” they concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/27/fluconazole-safe-effective-alternative-recurrent-cushings-patient-case-report/

Cushing Syndrome Results in Poor Quality of Life Even After Remission

Functional remission did not occur in most patients with Cushing syndrome who were considered to be in biochemical and clinical remission, according to a study published in Endocrine. This was evidenced by their quality of life, which remained impaired in all domains.

The term “functional remission” is a psychiatric concept that is defined as an “association of clinical remission and a recovery of social, professional, and personal levels of functioning.” In this observational study, investigators sought to determine the specific weight of psychological (anxiety and mood, coping, self-esteem) determinants of quality of life in patients with Cushing syndrome who were considered to be in clinical remission.

The cohort included 63 patients with hypercortisolism currently in remission who completed self-administered questionnaires that included quality of life (WHOQoL-BREF and Cushing QoL), depression, anxiety, self-esteem, body image, and coping scales. At a median of 3 years since remission, participants had a significantly lower quality of life and body satisfaction score compared with the general population and patients with chronic diseases. Of the cohort, 39 patients (61.9%) reported having low or very low self-esteem, while 16 (25.4%) had high or very high self-esteem. Depression and anxiety were seen in nearly half of the patients and they were more depressed than the general population. In addition, 42.9% of patients still needed working arrangements, while 19% had a disability or cessation of work.

Investigators wrote, “This impaired quality of life is strongly correlated to neurocognitive damage, and especially depression, a condition that is frequently confounded with the poor general condition owing to the decreased levels of cortisol. A psychiatric consultation should thus be systematically advised, and [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor] therapy should be discussed.”

Reference

Vermalle M, Alessandrini M, Graillon T, et al.  Lack of functional remission in Cushing’s Syndrome [published online July 17, 2018]. Endocrine. doi:10.1007/s12020-018-1664-7

From https://www.endocrinologyadvisor.com/general-endocrinology/functional-remission-quality-of-life-cushings-syndrome/article/788501/

Blood Lipid Levels Linked to High Blood Pressure in Cushing’s Disease Patients

High lipid levels in the blood may lead to elevated blood pressure in patients with Cushing’s disease, a Chinese study shows.

The study, “Evaluation of Lipid Profile and Its Relationship with Blood Pressure in Patients with Cushing’s Disease,” appeared in the journal Endocrine Connections.

Patients with Cushing’s disease often have chronic hypertension, or high blood pressure, a condition that puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease. While the mechanisms of Cushing’s-related high blood pressure are not fully understood, researchers believe that high levels of cortisol lead to chronic hypertension through increased cardiac output, vascular resistance, and reactivity to blood vessel constrictors.

In children and adults with Cushing’s syndrome, the relationship between increased cortisol levels and higher blood pressure has also been reported. Patients with Cushing’s syndrome may remain hypertensive even after surgery to lower their cortisol levels, suggesting their hypertension is caused by changes in blood vessels.

Studies have shown that Cushing’s patients have certain changes, such as increased wall thickness, in small arteries. The renin-angiotensin system, which can be activated by glucocorticoids like cortisol, is a possible factor contributing to vascular changes by increasing the uptake of LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) — the “bad” cholesterol — in vascular cells.

Prior research showed that lowering cholesterol levels could benefit patients with hypertension and normal lipid levels by decreasing the stiffness of large arteries. However, the link between blood lipids and hypertension in Cushing’s disease patients is largely unexplored.

The study included 84 patients (70 women) referred to a hospital in China for evaluation and diagnosis of Cushing’s disease. For each patient, researchers measured body mass index, blood pressure, lipid profile, and several other biomarkers of disease.

Patients with high LDL-cholesterol had higher body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoproteinB (apoB), a potential indicator of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

Data further revealed an association between blood pressure and lipid profile, including cholesterol, triglycerides, apoB and LDL-c. “The results strongly suggested that CHO (cholesterol), LDL-c and apoB might predict hypertension more precisely in [Cushing’s disease],” the scientists wrote.

They further add that high cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and apoB might be contributing to high blood pressure by increasing vessel stiffness.

Additional analysis showed that patients with higher levels of “bad” cholesterol — 3.37 mmol/L or higher — had higher blood pressure. This finding remained true, even when patients were receiving statins to lower their cholesterol levels.

No association was found between blood pressure and plasma cortisol, UFC, adrenocorticotropic hormone, or glucose levels in Cushing’s disease patients.

These findings raise some questions on whether lipid-lowering treatment for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease would be beneficial for Cushing’s disease patients. Further studies addressing this question are warranted.

Adapted from https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/04/24/blood-pressure-linked-lipid-levels-cushings-disease-study/

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