High Cortisol Levels in Urine May Be Linked to Changes in Blood Sugar Metabolism

Abnormally high levels of cortisol in the urine — one of the hallmarks of Cushing’s syndrome — seem to be associated with alterations in blood sugar metabolism in obese patients, a study found.

The study, “Hypercortisolism and altered glucose homeostasis in obese patients in the pre-bariatric surgery assessment,” was published in the journal Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews.

Cushing’s Syndrome and Skin Problems

By Afsaneh Khetrapal, BSc (Hons)

Cushing’s Syndrome (sometimes called hypercortisolism) is a hormonal disease caused by an abnormally high level of the hormone cortisol in the body. This may arise because of an endogenous or exogenous source of cortisol. Endogenous causes include the elevated production of cortisol by the adrenal glands, while exogenous causes include the excessive use of cortisol or other similar steroid (glucocorticoid) hormones over a prolonged period of time.

The adrenal glands are situated just above each kidney, and form part of the endocrine system. They have numerous functions such as the production of hormones called catecholamines, which includes epinephrine and norepinephrine. Interestingly, the outer layer (cortex) of the adrenal glands has the distinct responsibility of producing cortisol. This hormone is best known for its crucial role in the bodily response to stress.

At physiologically appropriate levels, cortisol is vital in maintaining normal sleep-wake cycles, and acts to increase blood sugar levels. It suppresses the immune system, regulates the effect of insulin on the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and help with the homeostasis of water in the body.

Exogenous corticosteroids can also lead to Cushing’s syndrome, when they are used as a form of long-term treatment for various medical conditions. In fact, the long-term use of steroid medication is the most common reason for the development of Cushing’s syndrome.

Prednisolone is the most commonly prescribed steroid medicine. It belongs to a class of medicine that is sometimes used to treat conditions such as certain forms of arthritis and cancer. Other uses include the rapid and effective reduction of inflammation in conditions such as asthma and multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as the treatment of autoimmune conditions such as lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Overall, Cushing’s syndrome is quite uncommon and affects approximately 1 in 50,000 people. Most of them are adults between the ages of 20 and 50.  Women are 3 times more commonly affected than men. Additionally, patients who are obese, or those who have type 2 diabetes with poorly controlled blood sugar and blood pressure show a greater predisposition to the disorder.

Symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome

There are numerous symptoms associated with Cushing’s syndrome, which range from muscle weakness, hypertension, curvature of the spine (kyphosis), osteoporosis, and depression, to fatigue Specific symptoms which pertain to the skin are as follows:

  • Thinning of the skin and other mucous membranes: the skin becomes dry and bruises easily. Cortisol causes the breakdown of some dermal proteins along with the weakening of small blood vessels. In fact, the skin may become so weak as to develop a shiny, paper-thin quality which allows it to be torn easily.
  • Increased susceptibility of skin to infections
  • Poor wound healing  of bruises, cuts, and scratches
  • Spots appear on the upper body, that is, on the face, chest or shoulders
  • Darkened skin which is seen on the neck
  • Wide, red-purple streaks (at least half an inch wide) called striae which are most common on the sides of the torso, the lower abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, and breasts, or in areas of weight gain. The accumulation of fat caused by Cushing’s syndrome stretches the skin which is already thin and weakened due to cortisol action, causing it to hemorrhage and stretch permanently, healing by fibrosis.
  • Acne: this can develop in patients of all ages.
  • Swollen ankles: this is caused by the accumulation of fluid, called edema.
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

Reviewed by Dr Liji Thomas, MD

From http://www.news-medical.net/health/Cushings-Syndrome-and-Skin-Problems.aspx

Higher Doses of ‘Abortion Pill’ Safe in Cushing’s?

Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

LAS VEGAS — Higher doses of mifepristone for Cushing’s disease (Korlym) weren’t associated with increases in serious adverse events, researchers reported here.

Korlym is a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist better known as RU-486, or the “abortion pill.” It was approved for treating hyperglycemia associated with Cushing’s disease in 2012.

In an analysis of data from the SEISMIC trial, Dat Nguyen, MD, and colleagues found that similar percentages of patients had serious adverse events across all doses of the drug, reported.

They also reported at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists meeting here, that the proportion of the four most common adverse events — headache, fatigue, nausea, and hypokalemia — fell off after 10 weeks of the 24-week trial.

“Recent prescription data indicate that many physicians are not titrating beyond 300 mg per day, potentially limiting patients’ clinical response,” the researchers said.

The 2012 approval was based on the SEISMIC study, which followed 50 Cushing’s disease patients over 24-weeks in an open-label format. It found that daily doses improved blood sugar control and reduced insulin requirements.

Clinicians participating in the trial were told they could titrate beyond the starting dose of 300 mg a day. To look at the relationship between dose and safety, as well as response, Nguyen and colleagues looked at data on 40 of the patients who responded to therapy.

Most of them (90%) were taking at least 600 mg a day, 68% were taking at least 900 mg per day, and 44% took 1,200 mg daily.

Most of the responders (85%) had their initial clinical response at a dose of at least 600 mg daily.

Overall, there were 26 serious adverse events:

  • 10 at the 300 mg dose
  • 8 at the 600 mg dose
  • 3 at the 900 mg dose
  • 3 at the 1200 mg dose
  • 2 while off drug

 

When the researchers adjusted for the number of patients who had ever reached a given dose, the frequency of serious adverse events was similar across doses:

  • 10% of patients at 300 mg
  • 16% of patients at 600 mg
  • 15% of patients at 900 mg
  • 14% of patients at 1200 mg

 

The four most common adverse events decreased after week 10 – although that tracked an increase in dose (mean 588 mg/day before week 10 versus 895 mg/day thereafter).

Nguyen and colleagues concluded that higher doses of mifepristone weren’t associated with increases in serious adverse events or in the most common adverse events – and that better response was seen with higher doses.

Korlym was developed by Corcept Therapeutics of Menlo Park, Calif., as an orphan drug given that it is is believed only 5,000 patients are eligible for treatment. That gave the company 7 years of exclusive rights to market the agent for Cushing’s disease.

The label limits the drug’s indication to patients with endogenous Cushing’s disease who have type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance and aren’t candidates for surgery, or failed to respond to surgical intervention.

The drug doesn’t reduce cortisol production but prevents it from binding to its receptor – an action separate from its blockade of the progesterone receptor, which makes it an effective agent in abortion.

Since the daily doses are in the same range as those used to induce abortion, the drug is contraindicated in pregnant women. It also carries a boxed warning that the drug will terminate a pregnancy.

From http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AACE/45790

Suspected case of Cushing’s Syndrome with history of taking medicines prescribed by registered Chinese medicine practitioner

The Department of Health (DH) today (February 18) alerted clients who have consulted a registered Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP) Mr Chan Kong-kin (CMP Chan), practising at G/F, No.25, Leung Tin Village in Tuen Mun, should consult health-care professionals for advice if they have been supplied with medicines suspected to be Western medicines.

The appeal followed the DH’s investigation into two public complaints. The first complaint involved a 23-year-old woman who consulted CMP Chan for management of eczema. She was given a type of green pills, two types of yellow pills and a type of red-yellow capsules for treatment of her disease for about one year.

She developed round face and increased facial hair which are features compatible with Cushing’s syndrome and steroid overdose can cause the syndrome. The patient was admitted to a public hospital on February 5 for investigation and was discharged on February 7.

The second complaint involved a 24-year-old woman who was recommended by the first complainant to consult CMP Chan for management of allergic rhinitis and eczema. She was given similar medicines as those for the first complainant for three days.

Her condition was stable.

Today, chemical analysis by the Government Laboratory on the patients’ drug samples showed that Western medicine Dexamethasone was detected in the red-yellow capsule.

Dexamethasone is a potent steroid. Taking dexamethasone for a long time, especially when in substantial dosage, can cause side effects such as moon face, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle atrophy, peptic ulcer and even osteoporosis.

DH has set up a hotline 2125 1133 for public enquiries related to the medicines prescribed by the CMP.

It will operate from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday.

“Preliminary investigation by the DH revealed that pills and capsules were found in the CMP’s premises and all have been seized for further investigation,” the spokesman said.

“In December 31, 2012, the DH announced that CMP Chan was found in possession of Part I poisons and unregistered pharmaceutical products in the same clinic which also involved medicines with steroid. The DH subsequently took enforcement action and the relevant legal proceeding is in progress.

The case has also been referred to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong for follow-up action,” the spokesman added

“On completion of our investigation, the DH will seek advice from the Department of Justice regarding possible contravention of the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap 138) for the illegal sale or possession of Part I poisons. According to the Ordinance, the maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years’ imprisonment. Besides, the DH will also refer this case to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong for possible disciplinary action”, the spokesman remarked.

People who have been supplied with medicines by the concerned CMP and are in doubt should consult health-care professionals as soon as possible.

They should submit the medicines to the Chinese Medicine Division of DH at 16/F, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, during office hours for disposal.

Source: HKSAR Government

From http://7thspace.com/headlines/453015/suspected_case_of_cushings_syndrome_with_history_of_taking_medicines_prescribed_by_registered_chinese_medicine_practitioner.html

Remaining calm = Reducing illness

Have you ever noticed that when you are “stressed” you can feel either emotionally/physically depleted or energized?  When our body is under stress the brain responds by producing epheniphrine or adrenaline, sending signals to our adrenal glands, increasing the rate at which our heart beats while releasing oxygen to our muscles.  The long term response to this process produces cortisol (aka the stress hormone) facilitating the release of energy throughout our body.  However, when our body isn’t properly balanced these hormones can wreak havoc on our wellness possibly resulting in one of three conditions:  Cushing’s syndrome, Cushing’s disease or Addison’s disease.

adrenal-glandsThe actual Adrenal glands sit physically atop both kidneys, taking on a triangular shape and a roundish rectangular type shape.  These glands are responsible for our sex hormones and cortisol, helping us respond to stress amongst other functions.  When our body is under stress, physically and/or nutritionally, it responds one of two ways:  Produces too much or too little of the cortisol hormone.  Our Adrenal glands also contribute to regulating our blood sugar, blood pressure, salt and water.

Adrenal disorders can cause our body to make too much or not enough of these hormones, bringing about adrenal gland related syndromes and disease.  Cushing’s syndrome results from our body making too much versus Addison’s disease produces too little.

Cushing’s syndrome vs. Cushing’s disease

Glucocorticoids (naturally produced in our body or received through medicine) are groups of corticosteroids (cortisol or dexamethasone) involved in metabolizing our carbohydrate and protein.  When taken synthetically (i.e. treatment of allergies, skin problems, and respiratory problems) or over-produced naturally, the side effects can result in “Cushing’s syndrome”.

Cushing’s syndrome can occur one of two ways:  Endogenous or Exogenous.  Endogenous is caused by the body (usually through tumors).  Exogenous is caused by medication.  In both cases, the body produces too much cortisol.

Symptoms: Severe fatigue/muscle weakness, high blood sugar and high blood pressure, upper body obesity, thin arms/legs, bruising easily

Treatment:  The cure and treatment for Cushing’s disease can come through medicine, surgery, or by lowering the dosage of your current synthetic hormone treatment.  Cushing’s syndrome can be cured.

Cushing’s disease is the most common form of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome and is likely treatable.  Caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland secreting too much Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), this type of tumor does not spread and can be removed through surgery.

Nutrition:  See a nutritionist or dietician for your condition.  Mostly, avoid excess sodium.  High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and high blood pressure can easily occur with this condition.  Bone loss density is common with this condition, so be extra aware of your calcium (800 – 1200 mg per day, based upon age) and Vitamin D intake (5mcg from age 0-50, increasing up to 10 mcg 50-71, and 15 mcg after 71).  Eating healthy, balanced and whole food (versus processed) is extremely important.

(Resource:  http://www.aboutcushings.com/understanding-cushings-disease/causes-and-differences.jsp)

Addison’s disease

Opposite from Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease doesn’t make “enough” of the sex hormones and cortisol.  The result of this disease causes our immune system to attack our tissue, damaging our adrenal glands.

Symptoms:  Weight loss, muscle weakness, increasingly worse fatigue, low blood pressure and patchy or dark skin.

Treatment:  If left untreated, the condition can be fatal.  Lifetime hormone treatment is usually required. Addison disease patients should always carry medical/emergency ID on them, listing their medication, dosage and disease

Lab tests can confirm that you have Addison’s disease. If you don’t treat it, it can be fatal. You will need to take hormone pills for the rest of your life. If you have Addison’s disease, you should carry an emergency ID. It should say that you have the disease, list your medicines and say how much you need in an emergency.”

(Ref: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cushingssyndrome.html, NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Learning how to balance our stress-filled lives is extremely important to our overall health.  Healthy nutrition always contributes benefits to our overall wellness.  We can overwhelm our endocrine system by simply not eating nutritionally.  Understanding that “Food is a drug” is vitally important to how we help our body naturally heal itself.  The above two conditions are the result of our body not handling the stress we are putting it through, causing our body to producing too much or too little of the sex hormones and cortisol.

Unless we first address what we can do naturally through nutrition, the medicine we consume will only do so much in helping our body heal completely.  You simply cannot continue doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the medicine to do all the work.  Some diseases are brought upon us through our environment (emotionally as well as physically) as well as our diet/nutrition.  Reviewing our entire wellness is always wisdom whenever we’re diagnosed with anything.

Certainly listen to your doctor and their advice.  But also ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist or clinical/registered dietician for a complete evaluation that includes a review of your nutritional diet/wellness.  Too often we reach for a pill or a procedure to “fix” our health problems, ignoring what we should be doing on our own to help our body heal.  Medical intervention is the result of providing our body with what it cannot produce on its own.  Nutrition should always be the “natural” medicine we take, as well as what we might need through prescribed medication.

Adapted from (Spelling errors corrected) http://hamptonroads.com/2013/10/remaining-calm-reducing-illness

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