Cushing’s and Hairy Nipples

Hairy nipples are a common condition in women. The amount of hair on the nipples varies, but some women find that the hair becomes long, coarse, and dark, which can be distressing.

Hairy nipples are rarely a cause for concern and are usually not a sign of any underlying health issues. However, occasionally they can signify something more serious, in which case, it is essential to consult a doctor.

Almost every part of a person’s skin is covered in hair and hair follicles. On certain parts of the body, such as the top of the head, the hair usually grows longer and thicker, while on other parts, it is thin and transparent.

Fast facts on hairy nipples:

  • It is not known how common hairy nipples are or how many women have them.
  • Many women do not report the condition and instead manage it themselves.
  • It is possible for hair that used to be fine and light to turn coarse and dark with age.

Causes of hairy nipples in women

There are several underlying reasons that might cause nipple hairs to grow. These are:

Cushing’s syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome is another condition caused by hormonal imbalance. When it occurs, there is an excess of cortisol in the body. In this case, a person may experience several symptoms, such as:

  • increased hair growth
  • abnormal menstrual periods
  • high blood pressure
  • a buildup of fat on the chest and tummy, while arms and legs remain slim
  • a buildup of fat on the back of the neck and shoulders
  • a rounded and red, puffy face
  • bruising easily
  • big purple stretch marks
  • weakness in the upper arms and thighs
  • low libido
  • problems with fertility
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • high blood glucose level

Cushing’s syndrome is fairly rare, and the cause is usually associated with taking glucocorticosteroid medicine, rather than the body overproducing the hormone on its own.

It is possible, however, that a tumor in the lung, pituitary gland, or adrenal gland is the cause.

Also:

Hormonal changes and fluctuations

Hormonal changes in women can cause many different symptoms, one of which is changes in nipple hair growth and color.

Some common hormonal changes happen during pregnancy and menopause.

However, hormonal changes can also occur when a woman is in her 20s and 30s, which may cause nipple hair to change appearance or become noticeable for the first time.

Overproduction of male hormones

It is possible for hormonal imbalances to cause hairy nipples. Overproduction of male hormones, including testosterone, can cause hair growth, while other symptoms include:

  • oily skin that can lead to breakouts and acne
  • menstrual periods stopping
  • increase in skeletal muscle mass
  • male pattern baldness, leading to a woman losing hair on her head

If overproduction of male hormones is suspected, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor who can confirm this with a simple test.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs because of a hormonal imbalance. PCOS is a condition that affects the way the ovaries work.

Common symptoms of PCOS are:

  • infertility
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • ovarian cysts
  • excessive hair growth in unusual places, such as the nipples

PCOS is believed to affect around 1 in 5 women.

Medication

The side effects of particular medicines can cause unusual hair growth.

Medicines, such as testosterone, glucocorticosteroids, and certain other immunotherapy drugs may cause hairy nipples.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for hairy nipples is not usually necessary for health reasons.

However, many women with the condition prefer to try and reduce or get rid of the appearance of hair on their nipples for cosmetic purposes.

There are several methods by which they can try and do this:

Trimming the nipple hair

Trimming the nipple hair may be enough to reduce its appearance. Small nail scissors are ideal, and hair can be cut close to the skin. It is essential to do this carefully and avoid catching the skin.

Trimming will need to be carried out regularly when the hair grows back.

Tweezing the nipple hair

Tweezing nipple hair is an effective way to get rid of unwanted nipple hair. However, this option can be painful as the skin around the nipple area is particularly soft and sensitive.

It is also important to bear in mind that the hair will return, and tweezing the hair increases the risk of infection and ingrown hairs.

Shaving the nipple hair

Shaving is another option to reduce the appearance of nipple hair. However, it is advisable to do so with caution to avoid nicking the sensitive skin.

This option also carries an increased risk of developing ingrown hairs and infection.

Waxing

Sugaring or waxing is a good hair removal option, though either one is likely to be painful. A salon is the best place to get this treatment type, as doing this at home may cause damage to the skin. Infection and ingrown hairs are again a risk.

Laser hair removal

These popular treatments can help to reduce the hair growth and slow or even prevent regrowth for a while. However, they can be painful, too.

Laser treatment is by far the most expensive option, as it will need to be performed by a plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist.

Hormonal treatment

If a hormonal imbalance is the cause of hairy nipples, a doctor may prescribe or adjust a woman’s medication therapy to restore a healthy hormonal balance.

Other treatments and how to choose

The above treatments are all commonly used to remove and reduce nipple hair and usually have minimal side effects.

Bleaching or using hair removal cream to treat the condition, however, is not advised as these methods are usually too harsh for this sensitive area and may cause irritation and damage.

At what point should you see a doctor?

Hairy nipples in women are quite common, and there is usually no need to see a doctor. However, if they are accompanied by any other unusual symptoms, it is a good idea to make an appointment.

A doctor will be able to perform tests to determine whether an underlying cause, such as PCOS, is causing the growth of nipple hair. If so, they will give advice and medication therapy to help manage the condition.

A doctor will also be able to advise how to remove nipple hair safely.

Takeaway

For the majority of women, nipple hair may seem unsightly, but it is not a cause for any concerns about their health.

However, because some medical conditions can cause nipple hair to darken and grow, it is important to see a doctor if any other symptoms are experienced.

Nipple hair can usually be easily treated and managed, should a woman choose to try to remove the hair for cosmetic reasons.

Adapted from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320835.php

 

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

Interview with Fabiana October 21

Fabiana had transsphenoidal surgery (pituitary) July 30th 2004.  She had a recurrence after seven years of being Cushing’s free.  A second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011 was unsuccessful.

Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated 9/12/2015

interview

Fabiana will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, October 21 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 88 other past interviews to listen to!

~~~

Well it has taken me a year to write this bio…and just to give some hope to those of you just going thru this process…I have to say that after surgery I have not felt better! I am back to who i always knew I was….the depression and anxiety is gone and I am living life like a 24 year old should!

I guess it all started when i was sixteen (hindsight is 20-20 i guess). My periods stopped i was tired all the time and the depression started. We all kind of just chalked it up to being sixteen. But my mom insisted something was not right. we talked with my gyno…who said nothing was wrong, I had a fungus on my head (my hair was getting really thin) and sometimes girls who had normal periods (in my case three years of normal periods) just go awry.

My mom wasnt hearing that and demanded a script for an endo. I went….he did blood work…and metioned cushings. But nothing came back definitive…so they put me on birthcontol and gave me some hormones and the chushings was never mentioned again because that all seemed to work.

As time went on my depression got worse, the shape of my body started to change-my face and stomach was the most noticeable- and my energy level kept going down. I kept going back to the doctors asking to be tested for mono..or something. I went to a psycologist….but i knew there was no reason for my depression. Two of them told me “i had very good insight” and that I didnt need them. I started getting more anxiety..especially about going out socially.

High school ended and my typical optimistic personality started to decline. I put on a good act to my friends but my family was seeing me break down all the time. I went away for college (all the while gaining weight). My sophmore year I had a break down..I called my family crying that i needed help. I couldnt beat my depression. I didnt drink in college because i knew that would mean instant weight gain, i barely went out…i exercised everyday..hard….i joined weight watchers…i stuck with it. I was at 103 lbs….that crept up to 110…that crept up to 117…each time my weight goal would be “ohh if i could just get back to 108..112…115” with each weight gain my original weight goal would get higher and higher.

Internally i felt like I was constantly under a black cloud..i knew there was no reason why i shoudl feel this way..i was doing great in school, i had a supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and great friends…why was i depressed? I was becoming emotionally draining to the people closest to me…I would go home a lot on the weekends…i was diagnosed with PMDS….like severe PMS..and was given an antidepresant…i hated it it made me feel like a zombie…i stopped taking it and just made it apoint to work on fighting the depression….and the weight gain.

When i was done college i was about 120 lbs. My face was getting rounder and rounder..i was noticing more hair on my face and arms…and a hump between my shoulder blades and the bottom of my neck. My mom saw a tv show about Polycystic ovarian syndrome and felt that maybe that was what was going on with me…i went to my PCP with this and she said it was possible and that i should to talk to my gyno….I am 4’8 and at the time weighing close to 125..i talked to my gyno and she said I was not heavy..that i was just “itailan” ..i told her my periods were getting abnormal again even w/the birthcontrol and that i was so tired all the time and my arms and legs ached. I also told her that i was bruising very easily…and that the weight gain would not stop despite my exercising and following the atikins diet very strickly for over 6 weeks. My boyfriend and I decided to try the diet together..he lost 35 llbs in 6 weeks..i lost NOTHING! I went back to my PCP who ordered an ultra sound of my ovaries…..NOTHING.(i kept thinking i was going crazy and that it was all in my head)….she also decided to do some blood work…and as i was walking out the door she said..”you know what..i am going to give you this 24hr urine test too. Just so that we cover everything”. I just kept thinking please let something come back ….please dont let this be all my fault…please dont let this be all in my head…..please dont let me be crazy. When i got the test results back it turned out that the 24hr urine test was the one test i needed to get on the right track to finding what was wrong. My cortisol level was 3x’s the normal.

I went to an endo…by the time i got to the endocronoligist i was up to 130…i could not work a full day without needing a full day of sleep and my body was aching beyond description. I was crying all the time…in my room…and was becoming more and more of a recluse…i would only hang out with my boyfriend in our houses. I looked my symptoms up on the internet and saw cushings…that was it! I went to the endo and told him..i think it is cushings….he said he had only saw it one other time and that he wanted to do more tests. I got CAT scans, x-rays, MRI’s….my adrenals my pituitary my lungs….he did a CRH stimulation test which was getting blood work done every fifteen minutes for 90minutes….it took weeks to get that test scheduled..no one had ever heard of it and therefore did not know how to do it…..finally after 3 months of tests my dr. felt he had enough evidence to diagnos me with cushings disease (tumor on my pituitary) I was diagnosed in March of 2004. By this time i was about 137 lbs i had to work part time (i am an occupational therapist for children..i do home visits….i could not make it thru a whole day)

In April i had to change to office work…i could not lift the children and i could barely get up off the floor. I have to say i was one of the lucky people who worked for people who were very supportive and accomidating…my boss was very willing to work with me and willing to hold my job for me.

July 30th 2004 i finally had transphenodial surgery to remove my tumor (they went thru my lip and nose because they felt my nose was too small). It is now over 1 year later….i am down to 108 lbs, i have so much energy…no depression….and i dont mind looking at myself in the mirror…i am enjoying my friends and my boyfriend…(who stayed with me thru it all) And my family. I feel healthy mentally, emptionally, and physically. And i just got back into my size 2 jeans!!!

It was a crappy time…(as i am sure you all can atest to) but i learned a lot…..most importantly i was bombarded by good wishes and prayers….friends requested masses for me…a nun in brazil prayed for me…people who i never thought i touched their lives…took the time to wish me well…send an email..or call….I got to experience the wonderful loving nature of human beings and i was lucky to be supported by my family (my mom, dad, and two younger brothers) and my boyfriend throughout this entire tough journey.

This experience taught me to realize the strength i have as well as to appreciate the good and the bad in life. I was on hydrocortizone for about 8 months…i was lucky that my tumor was in its own little sack so my pituitary gland was not touched. In the end in took about 7 years to diagnose me..i think that if the dr. at 16 would have pursued the cushings idea nothing would have been found because it took so long for my symptoms to really peak…needless to say i love my PCP and my endo ..and that i changed gyno’s…

I just want to let anyone out there going thru this disease to know..you are not alone….and to take each day is stride…when you need help ask for it….and that this road can lead to a happy ending. God Bless!

ps- it is ok to feel bad about what you are going thru…it is a tough thing to endure…and when the docotors tell you there is noting wrong…..follow your gut…and you keep searching for the doctor that will listen… If there is anyone in the philadelphis of south jersey area who needs someone to talk to please feel free to email me…fapadula@hotmail.com…i will help you out the best i can!

Update November 6, 2011

Well- here is an update, after seven years of being Cushings free it has returned.

With in those seven years I married my college boyfriend and we now have a son- Nicholas who will be 2 in Decemeber. It has been a blessed and wonderful seven years. However right around when my son was turning 1 I started to notice symptoms again. Increase facial hair, the whole “roundness” of my body, buffalo hump. I decided I was going to work out hard, eat right, and see – I didnt just want to jump to any conclusions. I stuck to it- and nothing…..my hair started thinning again and the acne was coming back and then the missed periods…..so I went to my PCP- told them i needed the 24hr urine and wouldnt you know…..427 cortisol level (on that 0-50 scale)……here we go again.

So back to endo- now at Penn Pituitary Center…..it was another journey b/c the tumor wasnt definative on MRI, and it seems to be cycling…..but I was diagnosed with Cushings again- with the option of 2nd pit surgery or BLA…….after some months of trying to make a decision I went with the 50/50 chance of the second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011.

It didnt work- my levels never came down in the hospital and I went home w/ out of range cortisol levels and no need for medication……BLURG……Sooooo on to the next step…..after I recover from this surgery I will most likely have the BLA- with the hopes of not having to deal with Cushings ever again. This time around has been a little more difficult just with being a mom and feeling sick- but I still continue to be amazingly blessed with a supportive family and husband and we are surrounded by love and support and for that I am beyond greatful.

I keep all of you in my prayers for relief and health- as I ( we all) know this no easy journey.

Many Blessings!

Fabiana

Update September 12, 2015

So to bring this up to date. My second pituitary surgery in 2011 was unsuccessful. January of 2012 I had both of my adrenal glands removed. Going to adrenal insufficiency was a very difficult transition for me. It took me nearly 2 years before I felt functional. As time went on I felt more human, but I haven’t felt healthy since that day. I can and do function, but at a lower expectation of what I used to be capable of….my “new normal”.

My husband and I decided to try for a second child…my pituitary was damaged from the second surgery and we needed fertility…after 8 months of fertility I got pregnant and we had our second son January of 2015.

In April of 2015 we discovered that my ACTH was increasing exponentially. MRI revealed a macroadenoma invading my cavernous sinus. The tumor is sitting on my carotid artery and milimeterrs away from my optic chasim. I was not a candidate for another surgery due to the tumors proximity to.both of those vital structures.

So September 1st of this year I started daily radiation treatments. I spent my 34th birthday getting my brain zapped. I am receiving proton beam therapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so lucky to live so close to an institute that has some of the rarest treatment options.

Again Cushing’s is disrupting our life, my husband goes with me every night to radiation while family takes turns watching the kids….I am now on my 18th year of fighting this disease. I never imagined it would get to this point.

But here we all are making the best of each day, fighting each day and trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Blessings to all of you fighting this disease…my new go to saying is” ‘effing Cushing’s”! For you newbies…Fight, Advocate for yourselves, and find a doc who doesn’t dismiss you and hang on to them for dear life.

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Think Like a Doctor: Red Herrings Solved!

By LISA SANDERS, M.D.

On Thursday we challenged Well readers to take the case of a 29-year-old woman with an injured groin, a swollen foot and other abnormalities. Many of you found it as challenging as the doctors who saw her. I asked for the right test as well as the right diagnosis. More than 200 answers were posted.

The right test was…

The dexamethasone suppression test,though I counted those of you who suggested measuring the cortisol in the urine.

The right diagnosis was…

Cushing’s disease

More than a dozen of you got the right answer or the right test, but Dr. Davin Quinn, a consultant psychiatrist at the University of New Mexico Hospital, was the first to be right on both counts. As soon as he saw that the patient’s cortisol level was increased, he thought of Cushing’s. And he had treated a young patient like this one some years ago as a second year resident.

The Diagnosis:

Cushing’s disease is caused by having too much of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands, little pyramid shaped organs that sit atop the kidneys. It is normally a very tightly regulated hormone that helps the body respond to physical stress.

Sometimes the excess comes from a tumor in the adrenal gland itself that causes the little organ to go into overdrive, making too much cortisol. More often the excess occurs when a tumor in the pituitary gland in the brain results in too much ACTH, the hormone that controls the adrenal gland.

In the body, cortisol’s most fundamental job is to make sure we have enough glucose around to get the body’s work done. To that end, the hormone drives appetite, so that enough fuel is taken in through the food we eat. When needed, it can break muscle down into glucose. This essential function accounts for the most common symptoms of cortisol excess: hyperglycemia, weight gain and muscle wasting. However, cortisol has many functions in the body, and so an excess of the hormone can manifest itself in many different ways.

Cushing’s was first described by Dr. Harvey Cushing, a surgeon often considered the father of modern neurosurgery. In a case report in 1912, he described a 23-year-old woman with sudden weight gain, mostly in the abdomen; stretch marks from skin too thin and delicate to accommodate the excess girth; easy bruising; high blood pressure and diabetes.

Dr. Cushing’s case was, it turns out, a classic presentation of the illness. It wasn’t until 20 years later that he recognized that the disease had two forms. When it is a primary problem of an adrenal gland gone wild and producing too much cortisol on its own, the disease is known as Cushing’s syndrome. When the problem results from an overgrown part of the pituitary making too much ACTH and causing the completely normal adrenal glands to overproduce the hormone, the illness is called Cushing’s disease.

It was an important distinction, since the treatment often requires a surgical resection of the body part where the problem originates. Cushing’s syndrome can also be caused by steroid-containing medications, which are frequently used to treat certain pulmonary and autoimmune diseases.

How the Diagnosis Was Made:

After the young woman got her lab results from Dr. Becky Miller, the hematologist she had been referred to after seeing several other specialists, the patient started reading up on the abnormalities that had been found. And based on what she found on the Internet, she had an idea of what was going on with her body.

“I think I have Cushing’s disease,” the patient told her endocrinologist when she saw him again a few weeks later.

The patient laid out her argument. In Cushing’s, the body puts out too much cortisol, one of the fight-or-flight stress hormones. That would explain her high blood pressure. Just about everyone with Cushing’s disease has high blood pressure.

She had other symptoms of Cushing’s, too. She bruised easily. And she’d been waking up crazy early in the morning for the past year or so – around 4:30 – and couldn’t get back to sleep. She’d heard that too much cortisol could cause that as well. She was losing muscle mass – she used to have well-defined muscles in her thighs and calves. Not any more. Her belly – it wasn’t huge, but it was a lot bigger than it had been. Cushing’s seemed the obvious diagnosis.

The doctor was skeptical. He had seen Cushing’s before, and this patient didn’t match the typical pattern. She was the right age for Cushing’s and she had high blood pressure, but nothing else seemed to fit. She wasn’t obese. Indeed, she was tall (5- foot-10) and slim (150 pounds) and athletic looking. She didn’t have stretch marks; she didn’t have diabetes. She said she bruised easily, but the endocrinologist saw no bruises on exam. Her ankle was still swollen, and Cushing’s can do that, but so can lots of other diseases.

The blood tests that Dr. Miller ordered measuring the patient’s ACTH and cortisol levels were suggestive of the disease, but many common problems — depression, alcohol use, eating disorders — can cause the same result. Still, it was worth taking the next step: a dexamethasone suppression test.

Testing, Then Treatment:

The dexamethasone suppression test depends on a natural negative feedback loop whereby high levels of cortisol suppress further secretion of the hormone. Dexamethasone is an artificial form of cortisol. Given in high doses, it will cause the level of naturally-occurring cortisol to drop dramatically.

The patient was told to take the dexamethasone pills the night before having her blood tested. The doctor called her the next day.

“Are you sure you took the pills I gave you last night?” the endocrinologist asked her over the phone. The doctor’s voice sounded a little sharp to the young woman, tinged with a hint of accusation.

“Of course I took them,” she responded, trying to keep her voice clear of any irritation.

“Well, the results are crazy,” he told her and proposed she take another test: a 24-hour urine test.

Because cortisol is eliminated through the kidneys, collecting a full day’s urine would show how much cortisol her body was making. So the patient carefully collected a day’s worth of urine.

A few days later, the endocrinologist called again: her cortisol level was shockingly high. She was right, the doctor conceded, she really did have Cushing’s.

An M.R.I. scan revealed a tiny tumor on her pituitary. A couple of months later, she had surgery to remove the affected part of the gland.

After recovering from the surgery, the patient’s blood pressure returned to normal, as did her red blood cell count and her persistently swollen ankle. And she was able to once again sleep through the night.

Red Herrings Everywhere:

As many readers noted, there were lots of findings that didn’t really add up in this case. Was this woman’s groin sprain part of the Cushing’s? What about the lower extremity swelling, and the excess red blood cell count?

In the medical literature, there is a single case report of high red blood cell counts as the presenting symptom in a patient with Cushing’s. And with this patient, the problem resolved after her surgery – so maybe they were linked.

And what about the weird bone marrow biopsy? The gastritis? The enlarged spleen? It’s hard to say for certain if any of these problems was a result of the excess cortisol or if she just happened to have other medical problems.

Why the patient didn’t have the typical symptoms of Cushing’s is easier to explain. She was very early in the course of the disease when she got her diagnosis. Most patients are diagnosed once symptoms have become more prominent

By the time this patient had her surgery, a couple of months later, the round face and belly characteristic of cortisol excess were present. Now, two years after her surgery, none of the symptoms remain.

From http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/think-like-a-doctor-red-herrings-solved/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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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