Symptoms

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The Signs and symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include:

  • Weight gain – particularly around the gut or mid-section
  • “Moon face” – a rounded shape of the face that develops from a specific pattern of fat distribution.
  • Easy bruising – the arms and legs are frequently covered with multiple bruises.
  • “Buffalo hump” – a mound of fat at the base of the back of the neck.
  • Abnormal hair growth – women with Cushing’s syndrome may develop more hair growth on the face or near the belly button.
  • Edema (leg swelling) – due to excess fluid buildup in the lower legs and feet.
  • Stretch marks (purple striae) – most common around the sides and lower abdomen, these may have a pink, red, or purple color.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar levels)
  • Mood changes – many patients feel “hyper”, others may experience sudden emotional ups and downs or be quick to anger.
  • Thinning of the skin – the skin may develop a shiny, paper-thin quality and may rip or tear easily.
  • Ruddy complexion (plethora) – a reddening of the face or cheeks.
  • Muscle weakness – the arms and legs may become skinny like twigs from muscle wasting.
  • Menstrual disturbances – a woman’s period may be irregular or stop altogether.

Some of the above symptoms are nonspecific and can occur as a result of other conditions, such as obesity or the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Overall, Cushing’s syndrome is a very rare cause of weight gain. In other words, most weight gain that occurs in the United States is a result of diet and exercise behaviors, and not Cushing’s syndrome. Of the above signs and symptoms, the ones that are most specific to (indicative of) Cushing’s syndrome are easy bruising, muscle weakness, and ruddy complexion. Patients who have too much cortisol but do not have any clear signs or symptoms of hypercortisolism are said to have “subclinical Cushing’s.”

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