Psoriatic arthritis patients face more endocrine comorbidities


AT 2016 GRAPPA ANNUAL MEETING


VITALS

Key clinical point:Patients with psoriatic disease had a significantly higher prevalence of diabetes mellitus and some other endocrine comorbidities.

Major finding: In a univariate analysis, the risk for Cushing’s disease was notably higher among psoriatic arthritis patients, compared with controls (odds ratio, 5.31).

Data source: Retrospective, cross-sectional comparison of 3,161 patients with psoriatic arthritis and 31,610 matched controls.

Disclosures: Dr. Haddad, Dr. Coates, and Dr. Kavanaugh reported having no relevant financial disclosures.

The large, population-based cohort is a strength of the study. “We are now going back to see how many of these patients were seen by rheumatologists,” Dr. Haddad said. A lack of association with disease burden is a potential limitation, he added.

Thirty percent of patients were treated with biologics and about 67% with steroids. “That number treated with steroids seems high,” a meeting attendee commented. Dr. Haddad explained that it is the percentage ever treated with steroids, not necessarily currently on steroids.

In a separate session at the GRAPPA meeting addressing psoriatic disease treatment recommendations, an attendee asked about specific recommendations for comorbidities. For now, GRAPPA plans to include comorbidities within its overall recommendations, as it did in its most recent update, released in January 2016. A limited amount of data is a primary reason.

“As the evidence on comorbidities gets better, we may someday have separate recommendations for comorbidities,” said Laura Coates, MD, a clinical lecturer in rheumatology at the University of Leeds (England).

“The comorbidities are very important,” said Arthur F. Kavanaugh, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “That’s trickier and deals with the international nature of GRAPPA. It’s hard to say, ‘Go see this specialist,’ because that might not be standard of care in that country.”

Dr. Haddad, Dr. Coates, and Dr. Kavanaugh reported having no relevant financial disclosures.

 From http://www.clinicalendocrinologynews.com/specialty-focus/diabetes/single-article-page/psoriatic-arthritis-patients-face-more-endocrine-comorbidities/f8700c8ffde9fc2534295458feb8eba3.html?utm_source=News_CEN_eNL_072616&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Psoriatic+arthritis+patients+face+more+endocrine+comorbidities

Pituitary Gland: Normal Function and Assessment

Abstract

This computer-based, interactive module introduces preclinical medical students to normal pituitary function and outlines its assessment. Solid understanding of these topics is requisite to learning clinical disorders of the pituitary.

Existing resources largely target learners at earlier or later stages of training; thus, we created this resource to address needs of medical students during a first- or second-year endocrine course. A module format was selected to promote interactive, independent learning.

Two cohorts of medical students completed the 40-minute module: 172 second-year students who had completed a year of basic sciences in the traditional curriculum and 180 foundation-phase students in a three-semester combined basic and clinical sciences curriculum (due to a change in the medical school curriculum at our institution). In both instances, the module was completed before start of clinical pituitary content. A static set of PowerPoint slides accompanied the module to facilitate note taking.

Test Your Knowledge slides were inserted to ensure grasp of key terms/concepts before moving to subsequent slides. A short question-and-answer session was held following module completion to clarify points of confusion. Students rated effectiveness of the module as 4.6 out of 5, commenting on its clarity, organization, high-yield nature, and utility in preparing for clinical material.

Faculty noted greater understanding of foundational pituitary principles and more engaging discussions. The percentage of pituitary-related questions answered correctly on the midterm exam increased.

Finally, success of the pituitary module prompted development of adrenal, thyroid, and parathyroid modules that now comprise the Endocrine Organs Introduction Series in our curriculum.

Citation

Kirk D, Smith KW. Pituitary gland: normal function and assessment. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2016;12:10430. http://dx.doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10430

Educational Objectives

After completing this module, the learner will be able to:

  1. Describe the normal function and regulation of the pituitary gland, including names and actions of the anterior and posterior pituitary hormones.
  2. Understand the basic approach to laboratory assessment of the pituitary.
  3. Differentiate between anterior and posterior pituitary origin, function, and regulation.
  4. List the hormones produced by the pituitary gland.
  5. Discuss for each pituitary hormone: hypothalamic stimulating/inhibiting factors and their clinical uses, basic physiologic function, and regulation (feedback loop).
  6. Describe factors that affect growth hormone levels.
  7. Understand the tests for growth hormone excess and deficiency.
  8. Define a primary versus secondary endocrine disorder.

Keywords

  • Endocrine, Endocrinology, Pituitary, Module, Preclinical Medical Education

More information at https://www.mededportal.org/publication/10430

Cushing’s Tips

Things I’ve learned and wanted to share

By LindaP, with a little help from other Cushing’s Message Board members. This is a continuing list, if you want to share.

I have learned so much on this Cushing’s journey, much of it from all of you and this site. I wanted to share those learnings, in the event that it helps anyone else.

Obviously – my own opinions here!

My best wishes to everyone on their Cushing’s journey.

Linda

**********************************************

1. Trust your instincts.

2. Trust your instincts some more.

3. Do your research – read everything you can, talk to people, use this website and the message boards. Slog through research papers. Not all of it will make sense, but it is amazing how much you can learn, and how much it will help you on your diagnostic journey.

4. Not everyone will have every one of the “typically described” symptoms of the hump, moon face, straie, and central obesity. Some people get them all, some people get some, and others don’t develop these signs.

5. While substantial weight gain is very common with Cushings, there are some people who have only mild or moderate weight gain. What seems to be the common thread, however, is the inability to lose it in spite of diet and exercise.

6. You don’t need to test positive on every single test, or test positive on every type of test, to have Cushings. There is substantial variation in how we present with the disease, and in which tests will identify the excess cortisol in our bodies. Do not let a single negative result on any one test, or negative results on a particular type of test, prevent you from aggressively pursuing a Cushings diagnosis if there is strong suspicion. For example, it is possible for an individual to have proven Cushings without ever having a positive on a ufc or dex suppression test.

7. Do not waste time, energy and financial resources on unhelpful doctors.

8. Whenever possible, get to a true Cushings expert as soon as the disease is suspected.

9. When seeing a new endocrinologist, don’t be afraid to ask:

a. What is your opinion on cyclic or intermittent Cushings?b. When and how might you diagnose a mild or early case of Cushings? Do you recommend treatment in those cases?

c. Do you believe it is possible for someone to have Cushings without all or some of the commonly associated stigmata (straie, hump, moon face, substantial weight gain)?

d. What is your diagnostic criteria for Cushings?

i. Lab tests

ii. Physical symptoms

iii. Imaging

e. How many patients have you diagnosed with Cushings?

f. What surgeon(s) do you recommend and work with for your patients with tumors that are causing Cushings?

g. If Cushings is suspected, how can we work together to maximize testing to give us answers as quickly as possible? How can I most easily get my test results from your office?

10. Make sure your doctor is willing to support the amount of testing that may be necessary to allow you to begin to distinguish between high and low periods. Make sure your doctor is also willing to support multiple types of tests to appropriately rule in/out Cushings.

11. Create a binder and get copies of every single test. (Make additional copies of test results so that you have extra available to perhaps send in advance to a new doctor, or to be able to readily provide a copy during your appointment as necessary). Get copies of clinic notes as well. Organize them into the binder. My binder has the following tabs:

a. Spreadsheet that summarizes most relevant test resultsb. Current medical history/summary of symptoms

c. Imaging reports

d. Cortisol test results (serum, salivary, ufcS)

e. Other lab results (including EKGs and other relevant tests)

f. Eyes (visual field tests, letter from eye doctor, etc)

g. Clinic Notes

12. Research tests. It is not uncommon for a test to be ordered or interpreted incorrectly.

13. MRIs are only tools. They can be interpreted differently by different people and they may not accurately identify the extent or location of a tumor.

14. Create a spreadsheet, or use a journal, to track symptoms daily. Log test results so that you can begin to see patterns. Symptoms may be as subtle as canker sores, or cracked lips or skin, a single pimple, or may be more obvious such as severe swings in mood and energy levels, insomnia, bad acne, etc. Write it all down and track it.

15. Test whenever you feel different.

16. Symptoms of a high for you may or may not match what is typically described for a high. You may experience a high differently. For example, achiness is frequently described as a low symptom, but it may occur during a high in your case. Tracking symptoms and correlating test results help to identify patterns of a high.

17. Start testing your own blood sugar to identify any possible blood sugar problems and to look for possible correlation between episodes of high blood sugar and high cortisol levels. This won’t apply to everyone, and may not be useful in your case, but it was very helpful to me. A very good Walgreen’s brand glucometer is only $20.

18. Get a blood pressure cuff and start checking your own bp at home. Look for patterns there as well.

19. Summarize test results for your doctor (PCP, endocrinologist, or even surgeon). Create a simple table that shows your relevant test results over time.

20. Collect photos that illustrate how your physical appearance has changed.

21. When researching surgeons, learn as much as you can about the different techniques and approaches. Some may seem similar, but there are differences that are important to understand.

22. When interviewing surgeons, the following questions may be helpful (mostly pituitary focused):

a. How will you approach the tumor?

b. What instruments are used? Endoscope? Microscope? Both?

c. What incisions are made?

d. Do you need to clear any kind of path within the nasal or sinus area for your instruments? How will you do that?

e. What stitches will I have?

f. Do you use a “fat plug”?

g. Do you use a lumbar drain?

h. Will there be any nasal packing?

i. How will my head be immobilized during surgery? (Is a “halo” used?)

j. Do you use Doppler to localize the carotid arteries? (not necessary in fully endoscopic procedure as I understand it)

k. Describe your approach to locating any tumor seen on the MRI, and what you will do to find any other tumors that may be in, on, or around the gland.

l. Under what circumstances might you find it necessary to remove either part of the pituitary gland, or all of it?

m. How many of these procedures have you done?

n. How long have you been performing this particular procedure?

o. What are some typical complications that occur with this procedure? How do you manage those complications?

p. Based on my MRI, is there anything in particular that might suggest greater risk of diabetes insipidous or other long term complications with this surgery?

q. Tell me what to expect in terms of post-operative pain and how it will be managed.

r. Is an ICU stay typically necessary?

s. How long can I expect to stay in the hospital?

t. Do you give steroids intra-operatively?

u. When do you test post-op cortisol levels? What is the cortisol replacement therapy protocol? If my endocrinologist is out of state, who will be monitoring that part of my testing and prescribing cortisol replacement as necessary?

v. When can I travel to return home?

w. What restrictions will I have once discharged? (Lifting, noseblowing, how I sleep, driving, exercise, etc)

x. How do I contact you if I should have any problems or concerns once discharged?

y. How will you communicate with my endocrinologist regarding the results of my surgery?

z. What is your protocol for following up with patients post-operatively?

aa. What is your rate of post-operative sinus infection?

bb. What is your rate of post-operative diabetes insipidous, both temporary and long-term?

23. These questions for your endocrinologist may be helpful once surgery is planned:

a. How will you determine my post-op cortisol replacement needs?

b. At what point will you recommend that I begin tapering my dose? What are your guidelines for each step in the weaning process?

c. Based on my case and your experience with other Cushings patients, what might I experience during the recovery period? How long before I feel “better”? What restrictions will I have?

d. When and how will you determine if other pituitary functions should be tested post-op? How will you test other pituitary functions post-op?

e. Do you provide a prescription for emergency injectable hydrocortisone?

f. Do you provide written instructions I may carry for Emergency Room staff in the event that I have an adrenal crisis?

g. How long should I expect to be off work?

h. How will you follow up with me post-op?

i. What is the best way to reach you if I have any questions or concerns after surgery?

24. Participate on the Cushings Boards to support yourself and others through the Cushings diagnosis and treatment journey. (You’ll also make some new friends.)

NIH Cushing’s Clinical Trials

Rank Status Study
1 Recruiting Safety and Efficacy of LCI699 in Cushing’s Disease Patients

Condition: Cushing Disease
Intervention: Drug: LCI699
2 Recruiting Preoperative Bexarotene Treatment for Cushing’s Disease

Condition: Cushing’s Disease
Intervention: Drug: Bexarotene
3 Recruiting Rosiglitazone in Treating Patients With Newly Diagnosed ACTH-Secreting Pituitary Tumor (Cushing Disease)

Condition: Brain and Central Nervous System Tumors
Interventions: Drug: rosiglitazone maleate;   Other: laboratory biomarker analysis
4 Unknown  Study of Depression, Peptides, and Steroids in Cushing’s Syndrome

Condition: Cushing’s Syndrome
Intervention:
5 Recruiting Examination of Brain Serotonin Receptors in Patients With Mood Disorders

Conditions: Mood Disorder;   Bipolar Disorder;   Depression
Intervention:
6 Recruiting An Investigation of Pituitary Tumors and Related Hypothalmic Disorders

Conditions: Abnormalities;   Craniopharyngioma;   Cushing’s Syndrome;   Endocrine Disease;   Pituitary Neoplasm
Intervention:
7 Recruiting Prospective, Open-Label, Multicenter, International Study of Mifepristone for Symptomatic Treatment of Cushing’s Syndrome Caused by Ectopic Adrenal Corticotrophin Hormone (ACTH) Secretion

Condition: Cushing’s Syndrome
Intervention: Drug: Mifepristone
8 Recruiting Anesthesia Management of Retroperitoneal Adrenalectomies

Condition: Adrenal Tumors
Intervention:
9 Recruiting Defining the Genetic Basis for the Development of Primary Pigmented Nodular Adrenocortical Disease (PPNAD) and the Carney Complex

Conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome;   Hereditary Neoplastic Syndrome;   Lentigo;   Neoplasm;   Testicular Neoplasm
Intervention:
10 Recruiting New Imaging Techniques in the Evaluation of Patients With Ectopic Cushing Syndrome

Condition: Cushing Syndrome
Intervention:
11 Recruiting Adolescence, Puberty, and Emotion Regulation

Conditions: Mood Disorder;   Neurobehavioral Manifestation;   Healthy
Intervention:
12 Recruiting Insulin Sensitivity and Substrate Metabolism in Patients With Cushing’s Syndrome

Conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome;   Insulin Resistance
Intervention: Procedure: Surgery
13 Recruiting Study of Adrenal Gland Tumors

Condition: Adrenal Gland Neoplasm
Intervention:
14 Not yet recruiting Adrenalectomy Versus Follow-up in Patients With Subclinical Cushings Syndrome

Condition: Adrenal Tumour With Mild Hypercortisolism
Intervention: Procedure: Adrenalectomy
15 Recruiting Assessing Fertility Potential in Female Cancer Survivors

Condition: History of Cancer
Intervention:
16 Recruiting Study of Pasireotide in Patients With Rare Tumors of Neuroendocrine Origin

Conditions: Pancreatic Neoplasm;   Pituitary Neoplasm;   Nelson Syndrome;   Ectopic ACTH Syndrome
Intervention: Drug: Pasireotide LAR
17 Recruiting Adrenal Tumors – Pathogenesis and Therapy

Conditions: Adrenal Tumors;   Adrenocortical Carcinoma;   Cushing Syndrome;   Conn Syndrome;   Pheochromocytoma
Intervention:
18 Recruiting Prevalence of Pituitary Incidentaloma in Relatives of Patients With Pituitary Adenoma

Condition: Pituitary Tumor
Intervention:
19 Recruiting Safety and Effectiveness of Granulocyte Transfusions in Resolving Infection in People With Neutropenia (The RING Study)

Conditions: Neutropenia;   Infection
Interventions: Drug: Standard antimicrobial therapy;   Biological: Granulocyte transfusions;   Drug: G-CFS/dexamethasone;   Device: Apheresis machine

Explaining Cushing’s to Others

Kate on the Cushing’s support board (Cushing’s Help and Support) wrote this letter after having pituitary surgery…

Dear friends and family:

I am writing this letter to share with you some basic facts about Cushing’s Disease/Syndrome and the recovery process so that you will have sufficient information to form realistic expectations about me and my ability to engage in certain activities in light of this disease and its aftermath.

As you know, Cushing’s is a rarely diagnosed endocrine disorder characterized by hypercortisolism. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and is vital to regulate the body’s cardivoascular functions and metabolism, to boost the immune system and to fight inflammation. But its most important job is to help the body to respond to stress.

The adrenal glands release cortisol in response to stress, so atheletes, women experiencing pregnancy, and those suffering from alcoholism, panic disorders and malnutrition naturally have higher-than-normal levels of cortisol.

People with Cushing’s Syndrome live life with too much cortisol for their bodies as a result of a hormone-secreting tumor. Mine is located in the pituitary gland. Endogenous hypercortisolism leaves the body in a constant state of “fight or flight,” which ravages the body and tears down the body’s major systems including cardivascular, musculo-skeletal, endocrine, etc.

Symptoms vary, but the most common symptoms include rapid, unexplained weight gain in the upper body with increased fat around the neck and face (“moon facies”); buffalo hump; facial flushing/plethora; muscle wasting in the arms and legs; purplish striae (stretch marks) on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts; poor wound healing and bruising; severe fatigue; depression, anxiety disorders and emotional lability; cognitive difficulties; sleep disorders due to abnormally high nighttime cortisol production; high blood pressure and high blood sugar/diabetes; edema; vision problems; premature osteoperosis; and, in women, signs of hyperandrogenism such as menstrual irregularities, infertility, hirsutism, male-patterned balding and steroid-induced acne.

Cushing's Symptoms

 

Attached, you will find a sketch of a typical Cushing’s patient. As you can see, the effects of the disease on the body are dramatic.Worse, the psychological and emotional effects of having a chronic, debilitating and disfiguring disease range from distressing to demoralizing.

Imagine that, in the space of a year, you became unrecognizable to those around you and to yourself. You look in the mirror, but the person staring back a tyou is a stranger. You endure the stares and looks of pity from those who knew you before Cushing’s, fully aware that they believe you have “let yourself go” or otherwise allowed this to happen to your body. Nothing you can say or do will persuade them otherwise, so at some point, you stop trying and resolve to live your life in a stranger’s body.

You feel increasingly sick, but when you explain your array of symptoms to your doctor, you are dismissed as a depressed hypochondriac who needs to diet and exercise more. Worse, your family members think the same thing — and are often quick to tell you how you need to “change your lifestyle” to overcome the effects of what you eventually will discover, once properly diagnosed, is a serious and rare disease.

If only it were so simple! No one would choose to have Cushing’s. Those of us who have it would not wish it even on our worst enemy.

Most people with Cushing’s long for the ability to do simple things, like walk a flight of stairs without having to sit for half an hour afterwards, or vacuum the house or even unload a dishwasher.

One of the worst parts about this disease is the crushing fatigue and muscle wasting/weakness, which accompanies hypercortisolism. Not only do we become socially isolated because of the virilzing effects of an endocrine tumor, which drastically alters our appearance, but we no longer feel like ourselves with regard to energy. We would love to take a long bike ride, run three miles or go shopping like we used to — activities, which we took for granted before the disease struck. Those activities are sadly impossible at times for those with advanced stages of the disease.

Sometimes, as with any serious illness, performing even basic tasks of daily care such as showering and dressing can exhaust the limited reserves of energy available to a Cushing’s patient.

How do we explain to you what it’s like to watch our lives slip away? What response is sufficient to express the grief and frustration over losing so much of ourselves? It is often difficult to find the strength to explain how your well-meaning words of prompting and encouragement (to diet or exercise) only serve to leave us more isolated and feeling alone.

Though we wouldn’t want it, we wish our disease were as well-understood as cancer so that those who love us would have a frame of reference for what we go through. With Cushing’s, there is such limited public awareness that we are left to describe the effects of the disease from a void, often with limited understanding from those who love us most, which is disheartening.

The most frustrating misconception about this disease is that we somehow are “doing this to ourselves,” or delaying recovery because we need to continue steroid replacement or lack the energy to excercise often, which is sadly false. Trust me that we would love to have that much control over such a terrible disease.

Fortunately, there is a good likelihood of remission from Cushing’s in the hands of a skilled pituitary surgeon. Unfortunately, the long-term remission rate is only 56%, meaning that 44% of people with Cushing’s will require a second (sometimes third) pituitary surgery, radiation or bilateraly adrenalectomy to resolve the hypercortisolism. Without successful treatment, Cushing’s leads to death. Even with successful treatment, I will have to be monitored for possible recurrence for the rest of my life.

After surgery or other treatment, the recovery period can last months or even years. Because the tumor takes over control of the body’s production of cortisol, the adrenal glands, which had lain dormant prior to surgery, require time to start functioning properly again.

Until this happens, we must take synthetic steroids or else risk adrenal insufficiency or adrenal crisis, which can be quickly life-threatening. Careful monitoring of our cortisol levels is critical during the weaning period. It is a rare but sad fact that some people’s adrenal glands never return to normal, and those people must continue to take hydrocortisone or prednisone — sometimes for life — simply in order for the body to perform correctly its basic systemic functions.

The physical recovery from surgery can be quick, but the withdrawal from hydrocortisone can be a lengthy and extremely painful process. As I described above, Cushing’s causes a tearing-down of muscles and bone. While there is an over-abundance of cortisol in our bodies (as a result of the tumor), we often can’t feel the effects of the muscle-wasting and bone deterioration because of the anti-inflammatory action of cortisol. Upon weaning, however, these become painfully (literally!) evident.

The physical pain experienced while weaning from cortisol has been described as worse than weaning from heroin. When cortisol levels are low, one experiences the symptoms akin to a really bad flu, including severe fatigue (”like a wet cement blanket laid on top of me”); weakness and exhaustion; nausea; headache; vomiting; mental confusion. It is imperative for people who are on replacement steroids after Cushing’s surgery to carry extra Cortef (or injectable Solu-Cortef) with them at all times in addition to wearing a medic alert bracelet so that medical professionals will be alerted to the possiblity of adrenal insufficiency in the event of an adrenal crisis.

People who have struggled with Cushing’s Syndrome all hope to return to “normal” at some point. Though none of us want to have Cushing’s, it is often a relief finally to have a correct diagnosis and treatment plan. For many, there is a gradual resolution of many Cushing’s symptoms within a few years of surgery or other successful treatment, and a good quality of life can be achieved.

But regrettably, this is not possible in every case. Depending on the severity of the disease and the length of time before diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis can be poor and lead to shortened life expectancy and diminished quality of life. This is not a choice or something we can control, but it is the reality for some people who have suffered the consequences of long-term hypercortisolism.

The best support you can give someone who is suffering from Cushing’s or its aftermath is to BELIEVE them and to understand that they are not manufacturing their illness or prolonging recovery. Ask them what they are able (and not able) to do, and then be prepared to help them in ways that matter — whether that be to bring them a meal or help them to run errands, pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy or clean their house.

Because it’s these little everyday tasks, which can fall by the wayside when someone has (or has had) Cushing’s, and these are the things we miss the most: doing for ourselves.

Ask us questions about the disease, and then actively listen to what we say. We know you don’t know much about Cushing’s — even our doctors sometimes lack information about this rare disease. But know we appreciate the interest and will tell you everything you want to know, because those of us who have it necessarily become experts in it just in order to survive.

Thank you for caring about me and for hearing what I am saying in this letter. I know you love me and are concerned about me, and I appreciate that so much. Thank you also for taking the time to read this letter. I look forward to discussing further any questions you might have.

In the meantime, I am attaching a brief article written by a woman who recently was diagnosed with Cushing’s. I hope hearing another person’s experiences will help you to understand what I’m going through so that when we talk, we will be coming from a similar starting place.


Endocrinologists (doctors who specialize in Cushing’s Syndrome and its related issues) realize the medical aspect and know the damaging effects that Cushing’s has on the body. Family and friends see their Cushie suffering and know they are hurting physically and often times mentally and emotionally. However, understanding the debilitation of Cushing’s and how it can affect every aspect of a person’s life can only be truly realized by those who have experienced the syndrome.

Cushings Help Organization, Inc., a non-profit family of websites maintained by MaryO, a pituitary Cushing’s survivor, provides this letter for patients to provide to their family and friends in hopes of providing a better understanding Cushing’s and it’s many aspects.

We’re sorry to hear that your family member or friend has Cushing’s Syndrome or suspected Cushing’s. A person may feel better at times then at other times. It’s common for a Cushing’s patient to have burst of energy and then all of a sudden they become lethargic and don’t feel like moving a muscle. There are many symptoms that are associated with Cushing’s. They include weight gain, fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, feeling achy all over, headaches, blurred vision, mood swings, high blood pressure, stretch marks (straie), buffalo hump, diabetes, edema and the list goes on. Hormones affect every area of the body.

It is important to note that not all patients have every symptom. Even some hallmark symptoms, such as straie or the “buffalo hump”, may not be noticable on every patient. Not everyone who has Cushing’s will experience the same symptoms, treatment, or recovery. Because not all “Cushies” have these symptoms, it makes diagnosis even more difficult.

Cushing’s can cause the physical appearance change due to weight gain, hair loss, rosacea, acne, etc. This can be very disturbing when looking in the mirror. Changes in appearance can often cause the Cushing’s patient to withdraw from family and friends making it a very lonely illness. Patients often feel alone or withdrawn because few others understand.

Cushing’s can affect affect anyone of any age although it is more commen in women.

Cushing’s patients need to be able to take one day at time and learn to listen to their bodies. There will most likely be times when naps are needed during the day and often times may not be able to sleep at night due to surges of cortisol. Your Cushie doesn’t expect you to understand Cushing’s Syndrome completely. They do need you to be there for them and try to understand to the best of your ability what they feel and not give up on them.

Often a Cushing’s patient may be moody and say things that they don’t mean. If this should happen with your Cushie try not to take it personally and know that it’s most likely caused by the elevated cortisol and disturbances in other hormone levels caused by the Cushing’s and not from the heart or true feelings of your Cushie.

It can be very depressing and frustrating having so many limitations and experience things in life being taken from you. Cushing’s patients are sick, not lazy, not hypochondriacs or even the newer term “Cyberchondriacs”. If a Cushing’s patient says they don’t feel like doing something or they express how bad they feel let them know that you believe them. One of the most frustrating things to someone who is sick is to have those you love not believe you or support you. Telling a Cushie to think positive thoughts will not make him/her well and will just be aggrivating.

Testing procedures can be lengthy and this can become frustrating for the patient and family. Often, it takes a while for results to come back and this can be stressful. Don’t look to far ahead just take one day at a time and deal with the situation that is at hand at the present time.

After a diagnosis is made then it’s time for treatment. Surgery is usually the best treatment option for Cushing’s that is caused by tumors. Don’t be surprised if the surgeon’s facility wants to run even more tests or redo some of those that have already been done. Your Cushie may have to travel a ways to find a surgeon who is trained in these delicate surgeries and who has performed many of them.

Once the diagnosis has been made and treatment has finished then it’s time for the recovery process. Not all patients who have surgery are cured and they have to make a choice along with the advice of their doctor as to what their next treatment option will be.

The recovery from the surgery itself is similar to any other surgery and will take a while to recover. The recovery process obtained from getting a cure from Cushing’s is quiet different from other surgeries. A Cushing’s patients body has been exposed to excess cortisol, usually for quite a long time, and has become accustomed it. When the tumor is removed that has been responsible for the excessive cortisol and the body is no longer getting it this causes the body to have withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be very hard causing an array of symptoms muscle aches, weakness, bone and joint pain, emotional disturbances etc.

Thank you for reading this and we hope it will help you to understand a little more about Cushing’s and the dibilating affect it can have on a person. Thank you for being there and supporting your Cushie during this time in their life. We realize that when a family member has Cushing’s it not only affects the individual but other family members and those around them as well. Showing your love and support will encourage a speedy recovery for your Cushie.


‘The ugly disease’

By Toby Hatchett // <![CDATA[
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When Fedela Vincent, 68, of Rye, was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, she was relieved, almost happy. After more than three years, she knew what was wrong with her.

Vincent had spent years trying to figure out what was wrong with her, what was happening to her and her body. A petite woman, of 5 feet, she had always been trim and fit. She ate right, worked out at the gym and led a healthy lifestyle.

But, for no apparent reason, she began to gain weight. Lots of weight, primarily in the upper body.

“I looked like an apple, with a moon face,” Fedela says. “Cushing’s is not called ?the ugly disease’ for nothing.”

Cushing’s disease victims don’t share the same symptoms, but many of the symptoms are physically noticeable: the extreme weight gain in the upper body, the moon face, a buffalo hump on the back, hair loss and blotchy, red skin with breakouts.

“Feeling constantly cruddy” is the polite description of being a Cushie,” Fedela says.

Then there are the other symptoms, those not visible on the outside. Fedela says the worst for her was the insomnia, the anxiety, the fear of abandonment and pain. The joints hurt, the muscles lose their mass and walking is difficult.

When Fedela was at her worst, she couldn’t walk up the stairs, let alone cook or shop. She was as weak as a kitten, she says.

Her doctors at this time urged her to lose weight, giving medications that often made her sick in an effort to solve the problem.

Bob Vincent, her husband of 48 years, never left her side during this difficult time. Cushing’s disease is such a traumatic disease that it is estimated more than half of husbands leave their wives. The mood swings can be dramatic.

“When Bob would bring me coffee,” says Fedela, “he never knew what to expect.”

Then Fedela decided to try a different kind of doctor. She went to Dr. Jennifer Warren, in Hampton, who specializes in weight control. In Warren, she found someone who listened to her and paid attention. Warren was the first doctor to suggest Cushing’s disease might be the cause of Fedela’s weight gain.

From that moment on, things began to happen. Fedela went to Dr. Daniel Nadeau who put her on a diabetes-related medication for weight loss. This didn’t work and after a month, she was given a simple urinalysis test. Within 24 hours, she had her diagnosis.

Nadeau referred Fedela to the Lahey Clinic, in Burlington, Mass. There she met the doctor she now calls her “savior,” Dr. Nicholas Tritos. This clinic is world-renowned for its work in pituitary malfunctions.

What is Cushing’s disease? It is the body reacting to a constant overdose of steroids being released by the adrenal glands. The pituitary gland over-stimulates the adrenal glands, which in turn send crisis-level chemical messages to all the other endocrine glands.

“The body reacts to the hyper-stimulation by constantly being in a state of fight or flight,” says Fedela. “It’s 24/7 with no relief.”

Cushing’s disease affects an estimated 10 to 15 out of every million people. The fact that it is relatively rare in numbers is one cause of the lack of public knowledge and awareness of this disease.

Non-diagnosed, Cushing’s disease can lead to uncontrollable diabetes, and eventually, death. The symptoms can be so varied and mimic so many other conditions, that Cushing’s disease is often not diagnosed or misdiagnosed.

“The not knowing what is wrong with you is awful,” Fedela says, “and the way people look at you when you’re not what society calls “normal.’”

“People would tell me ?you are what you eat’ and suggest I try Weight Watchers, things like that.”

But Fedela was carefully watching what she ate, often eating less than her doctors prescribed. Even when her energy level was almost non-existent, she and her husband would go to the gym.

“Bob wouldn’t let me stay inside. We kept going out, for drives, to Market Square and lunch with friends.”

After the initial diagnosis, Fedela spent six months undergoing various tests.

Then, on Mother’s Day of this year, during the New Hampshire floods, she was operated on. Fifty percent of one side of the pituitary was removed and 25 percent of the other side to remove the offending tumorous tissues.

Fedela spent five days recovering at the Lahey Clinic.

“The whole staff was just wonderful. The nurses would pop in to see what a Cushie looked like. They never left me alone.”

When she came out of the surgery, Bob was there beside her, along with a very special teddy bear.

“The teddy bear was hugged by members of South Church, including the children Fedela taught in her kindergarten class,” he said.

The blessing of this disease, as Fedela describes it, is in learning how to receive. Having long been a giver herself, this was not an easy lesson to learn. South Church, in Portsmouth, put together a Fedela Vincent Support Group, with people from Portsmouth, Rye, Salem, Mass., and Greenland, to provide moral support, company and meals. For six weeks, day and night, someone was there.

“South Church is an amazing institution,” Bob says. “The support group was invaluable. Fedela received over 250 cards from all over the country.”

This support group is still there for Vincent as she continues to recover and regain her health. She still has problems, but she can now lead a more normal life. “I can shop!” she says with a grin.

“I wanted to do this interview as a call to the medical community to be alert to the symptoms of Cushing’s disease and to really listen to their patients.”

Fedela also hopes that by sharing her story, others may learn that diet alone is not always the cause of weight gain. America’s obsession with skinny bodies and the resulting negative judgmental views on those who do not fit this picture is something she hopes people may think twice about before making judgments.

Lastly, Fedela wants to publicly thank her husband, family, friends and physicians who have stood by her during this difficult struggle. She still has a long way to go, but she is on the mend now and knows what was wrong with her.

“The not knowing what was happening to me was the worst of all.”

“If by telling my story, I can help even one person not go through what I did, then it’s worth it.”

Tritos, a leading endocrinologist at the Lahey Clinic, says it is common for Cushing’s disease to not be immediately diagnosed.

“It is common because the condition itself is uncommon. The symptoms are subtle and can be attributed to other causes.”

“In Fedela’s case, her own body was producing an overload of steroids.”

There is a peculiar type of weight gain, in the face, neck and upper torso. Unfortunately, it can take awhile to be diagnosed.

“Most patients go from one doctor to another before Cushing’s disease is diagnosed.”

Also, Tritos says, sometimes the tests are inconclusive.

But once on the appropriate path, most patients can be helped.

Tritos also notes the value of a good support system, which Fedela had in place.

“The support of family and friends is very important. By telling her story, Mrs. Vincent will increase the public’s awareness of Cushing’s disease.”

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