Day Fifteen, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2015

Way back when we first got married, my husband thought we might have a lot of kids.  He was from a family of 6 siblings, so that’s what he was accustomed to.  I am on only child so I wasn’t sure about having so many.

I needn’t have worried.

In January, 1974 I had a miscarriage.  I was devastated. My father revealed that my mother had also had a miscarriage.  I had no idea.

At some point after this I tried fertility drugs.  Clomid and another drug.  One or both drugs made me very angry/depressed/bitchy (one dwarf I left off the image)  Little did I know that these meds were a waste of time.

Eventually,  I did get pregnant and my wonderful son, Michael was born.  It wasn’t until he was seven that I was finally, actually diagnosed with Cushing’s.

When I had my early Cushing’s symptoms, I thought I was pregnant again but it was not to be.

I’ll never forget the fall when he was in second grade.  He was leaving for school and I said good bye to him.  I knew I was going into NIH that day for at least 6 weeks and my future was very iffy.  The night before, I had signed my will – just in case.  He just turned and headed off with his friends…and I felt a little betrayed.

Michael wrote this paper on Cushing’s when he was in the 7th grade. From the quality of the pages, he typed this on typing paper – no computers yet!

Click on each page to enlarge.

When Michael started having headache issues in middle school, I had him tested for Cushing’s.  I had no idea yet if it could be familial but I wasn’t taking any chances.  It turned out that my father had also had some unnamed endocrine issues.  Hmmm…

I survived my time and surgery at NIH and Michael grew up to be a wonderful young man, if an only child.  🙂

After I survived kidney cancer (Day Twelve, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2015) Michael and I went zip-lining – a goal of mine after surviving that surgery.  This was taken in a treetop restaurant in Belize.

For the mathematically inclined, this is his blog.  Xor’s Hammer.  I understand none of it.  He also has a page of Math and Music, which I also don’t understand.

Cushing’s Disease – Rare Disease Quick Facts

cushings-diagnosis

 

 

Cushing’s disease is a rare condition due to excess cortisol levels that result from a pituitary tumor secreting adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates cortisol secretion.  Cushing’s disease should not be confused with Cushing’s syndrome which is increased cortisol levels but that increase can be due to any number of factors. However, Cushing’s disease is the most common form of Cushing’s syndrome.

Symptoms

The symptoms related to Cushing’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome are the same, since both are related to an excess of cortisol. Also, symptoms vary extensively among patients and that, with the inherent fluctuation in hormone levels make it difficult to diagnosis both conditions.

Changes in physical characteristics of the body

  • Fullness and rounding of the face
  • Added fat on back of neck (so-called “buffalo hump”)
  • Easy bruising
  • Purplish stretch marks on the abdomen (abdominal striae)
  • Excessive weight gain, especially in abdominal region
  • Red cheeks
  • Excess hair growth on the face, neck, chest, abdomen and thighs

Changes in physiology/psychology

  • Generalized weakness and fatigue
  • Menstrual disorder
  • Decreased fertility and/or sex drive
  • High blood pressure that is often difficult to treat
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Mood and behavior disorders

Diagnosis

The early stages of Cushing’s disease may be difficult to recognize. However, if it is suspected, diagnosis is generally a 2 stage process. First to determine if cortisol levels are high, and if so, why they are high.

Tests to confirm high cortisol levels:

  • 24-hour urine cortisol
  • Dexamethasone suppression test (low dose)

Tests to determine cause:

  • Blood ACTH level
  • Brain MRI
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone test
  • Dexamethasone suppression test (high dose)
  • Petrosal sinus sampling

Treatment

Surgery

  • Most patients with Cushing’s disease undergo surgery to remove the pituitary adenoma offers.
  • If the tumor is isolated to the pituitary, cure rates of 80-85% are common.
  • If the tumor has spread to nearby organs, cure rates of 50-55% are common.

Medicine (approved orphan drugs)

Signifor (pasireotide)

  • Approved for patients with Cushing’s disease for whom pituitary is not an option or surgery has been ineffective.
  • Signifor is a somatostatin receptor agonist that leads to inhibition of ACTY secretion (and subsequently decreased cortisol levels).

Korlym (mifepristone)

  • Approved for patients with Cushing’s syndrome who have type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance and have failed surgery (or not candidates for surgery).
  • Korlym is a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist which in turn blocks the effects of the high levels of cortisol in the body. Korlym is used to treat high glucose levels due to elevated cortisol.

Medicines used but not indicated for Cushing’s disease include

Mitoden

ketoconazole

Metyrapone

Etomidate

Radiation

  • Radiation therapy may be used in some patients and can be very effective in controlling the growth of these tumors.

Prognosis

In most cases, treatment can cure Cushing’s disease. If not treated properly, the chronic hypercortisolism can lead to excess morbidity and mortality due to increased cardiovascular and other risk factors.

For more information

National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health

Cushing’s Disease Information (provided by Novartis Pharmaceuticals)

 

Images courtesy of the open access journal Orhanet Journal for Rare Diseases.  Castinetti et al. Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2012 7:41   doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-41

– See more at: http://www.raredr.com/front-page-medicine/articles/cushings-disease-rare-disease-quick-facts-0

Day Seventeen, Cushing’s Help Challenge

Way back when we first got married, my husband thought we might have a lot of kids.  He was from a family of 6 siblings, so that’s what he was accustomed to.  I am on only child so I wasn’t sure about having so many.

I needn’t have worried.

In January, 1974 I had a miscarriage.  I was devastated. My father revealed that my mother had also had a miscarriage.  I had no idea.

At some point after this I tried fertility drugs.  Clomid and another drug.  One or both drugs made me very angry/depressed/bitchy (one dwarves I left off the image)  Little did I know that these meds were a waste of time.

Eventually,  I did get pregnant and my wonderful son, Michael was born.  It wasn’t until he was seven that I was finally, actually diagnosed with Cushing’s.

When I had my early Cushing’s symptoms, I thought I was pregnant again but it was not to be.

I’ll never forget the fall when he was in second grade.  He was leaving for school and I said good bye to him.  I knew I was going into NIH that day for at least 6 weeks and my future was very iffy.  He just turned and headed off with his friends…and I felt a little betrayed.

Michael wrote this paper on Cushing’s when he was in the 7th grade. From the quality of the pages, he typed this on typing paper – no computers yet!

Click on each page to enlarge.

When Michael started having headache issues in middle school, I had him tested for Cushings.  I had no idea yet if it could be familial but I wasn’t taking any chances.  It turned out that my father had also had some unnamed endocrine issues.  Hmmm…

I survived my time and surgery at NIH and Michael grew up to be a wonderful young man, if an only child.  🙂

After I survived kidney cancer (see the post from April 12) Michael and I went zip-lining – a goal of mine after surviving that surgery.  This was taken in a treetop restaurant in Belize.

For the mathematically inclined, this is his blog.  Xor’s Hammer.  I understand none of it.

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