A moment in the scheming mind of Professor Pituitary and his sidekick, Dr. Hypothalamus!! And… their minions, the Hormonal Kitties!
Cortisol gets a bad rap these days. (Guilty!) Yes, this hormone surges when you’re stressed. And yes, chronic stress is bad news for your health. But while too much cortisol can lead to all sorts of stress-related side effects, too little cortisol is equally debilitating.
Just ask someone with Addison’s disease. If you suffer from this condition, your adrenal glands fail to make adequate amounts of cortisol, says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic.
Cortisol plays a role in regulating your blood pressure, heart function, digestion, and a lot else, Hatipoglu explains. So if your adrenal glands poop out and your cortisol levels plummet, a lot can go wrong. (In as little as 30 days, you can be a whole lot slimmer, way more energetic, and so much healthier just by following the simple, groundbreaking plan in The Thyroid Cure!)
Here’s what you need to know about this condition—starting with its craziest symptom.
It can make your teeth appear whiter.
Hatipoglu once met with a patient who was suffering from fatigue, belly pain, and mild weight loss. “Her doctors thought she was depressed,” Hatipoglu recalls. Toward the end of their appointment, Hatipoglu noticed the woman’s teeth looked very white. She realized they looked white because the woman’s skin was tan. “I asked her if she’d been on vacation, and she said she hadn’t been in the sun, and that’s when I knew,” Hatipoglu says. Some Addison’s-related hormone shifts can make the skin appear darker, almost like a tan. “Addison’s is the only disease I know of that can cause darkening of the skin,” she says.
Its (other) symptoms are popular ones.
A lot of online resources mention Addison’s disease and adrenal insufficiency as though they were two names for the same condition. They’re not the same, Hatipoglu says. While a thyroid issue or some other hormone-related imbalance could mess with your adrenal function, Addison’s disease refers to an autoimmune disorder in which your body attacks and destroys your adrenal glands.
While it takes months or even years for some Addison’s sufferers to lose all hormone production in their adrenal glands, for others the disease can knock out those organs very rapidly—in a matter of days, Hatipoglu says. “That’s very uncommon,” she adds. But compared to other less-severe adrenal issues, the symptoms of Addison’s tend to present more dramatically, she explains. That means a sufferer is likely to experience several of the symptoms mentioned above, and those symptoms will continue to grow worse as time passes.
Addison’s is not picky. It can strike at any age, regardless of your sex or ethnicity, Hatipoglu says. While there’s some evidence that genetics may play a role—if other people in your family have the disease or some other endocrine disorder, that may increase your risk—there’s really no way to predict who will develop the disease, she adds.
If your doctor suspects Addison’s, he or she will conduct a blood test to check for your levels of cortisol and another hormone called ACTH. “Usually the results of that screening are very clear,” Hatipoglu says. If they’re not, some follow-up tests can determine for sure if you have the condition.
Those treatments involve taking oral hormone supplements. In extreme cases, if the patient’s body does not properly absorb those supplements, injections may be necessary, Hatipoglu explains. “But patients live a normal life,” she adds. “It’s a treatable disease, and the treatments are effective.”
Filed under: adrenal, adrenal crisis, Diagnostic Testing, Rare Diseases | Tagged: ACTH, Addison's disease, adrenal glands, adrenal insufficiency, blood pressure, blood tests, Cleveland Clinic, cortisol, digestion, hormones | Leave a comment »
The pituitary gland works hard to keep you healthy, doing everything from ensuring proper bone and muscle growth to helping nursing mothers produce milk for their babies. Its functionality is even more remarkable when you consider the gland is the size of a pea.
“The pituitary is commonly referred to as the ‘master’ gland because it does so many important jobs in the body,” says Karen Frankwich, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist at Mission Hospital. “Not only does the pituitary make its own hormones, but it also triggers hormone production in other glands. The pituitary is aided in its job by the hypothalamus. This part of the brain is situated above the pituitary, and sends messages to the gland on when to release or stimulate production of necessary hormones.”
These hormones include:
The work of the pituitary gland can be affected by non-cancerous tumors called adenomas. “These tumors can affect hormone production, so you have too little or too much of a certain hormone,” Dr. Frankwich says. “Larger tumors that are more than 1 centimeter, called macroadenomas, can also put pressure on the area surrounding the gland, which can lead to vision problems and headaches. Because symptoms can vary depending on the hormone that is affected by a tumor, or sometimes there are no symptoms, adenomas can be difficult to pinpoint. General symptoms can include nausea, weight loss or gain, sluggishness or weakness, and changes in menstruation for women and sex drive for men.”
If there’s a suspected tumor, a doctor will usually run tests on a patient’s blood and urine, and possibly order a brain-imaging scan. An endocrinologist can help guide a patient on the best course of treatment, which could consist of surgery, medication, radiation therapy or careful monitoring of the tumor if it hasn’t caused major disruption.
“The pituitary gland is integral to a healthy, well-functioning body in so many ways,” Dr. Frankwich says. “It may not be a major organ you think about much, but it’s important to know how it works, and how it touches on so many aspects of your health.”
Filed under: pituitary | Tagged: ACTH, ADH, Adrenocorticotropin, endocrinologist, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, FSH, growth hormone, hormones, hypothalamus, LH, Luteinizing Hormone, master gland, Oxytocin, pituitary, prolactin, thyroid, Thyroid-stimulating hormone, TSH | Leave a comment »
Cushing’s syndrome—also referred to as hypercortisolism—is fairly rare. However, researchers have boiled down a few key causes of Cushing’s syndrome, which you’ll read about below.
The cause of Cushing’s syndrome boils down to: Your body is exposed to too much cortisol. There are a few ways that this over-exposure can happen, including taking certain medications and having a tumor on your pituitary gland or adrenal gland.
Can Taking Corticosteroids Cause Cushing’s Disease?
One particular type of medication can cause Cushing’s syndrome: corticosteroids. But rest assured: Not all steroid medications cause Cushing’s syndrome. It’s more common to develop Cushing’s syndrome from steroids you take in pill form or steroids you inject. Steroid creams and steroids you inhale are not common causes of Cushing’s syndrome.
Some steroid medications have the same effect as the hormone cortisol does when produced in your body. But as with an excessive production of cortisol in your body, taking too much corticosteroid medications can, over time, lead to Cushing’s syndrome.
It’s common for people with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus to take corticosteroids. Prednisone (eg, Deltasone) is an example of a corticosteroid medication.
Other Cushing’s Disease Causes
Your body can over-produce cortisol or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The pituitary gland secretes ACTH, which is in charge of stimulating the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, and the adrenal glands are responsible for releasing cortisol into the bloodstream.
Cortisol performs important tasks in your body, such as helping to maintain blood pressure and regulate how your body metabolizes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, so it’s necessary for your body to maintain normal levels of it.
The following can cause excessive production of cortisol or ACTH, leading to Cushing’s syndrome.
Cancerous adrenal tumors—called adrenocortical carcinomas—are relatively rare. These types of tumors typically cause extremely high levels of cortisol and very rapid development of symptoms.
It’s unusual to have a tumor that secretes ACTH outside the pituitary. These tumors are usually found in the pancreas, lungs, or thyroid, and they can be benign or malignant (cancerous).
The most common forms of ACTH-producing tumors are small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 13% of all lung cancer cases, and carcinoid tumors—small, slow-growing tumors that arise from hormone-producing cells in various parts of the body.
If you think you could have Cushing’s syndrome or you have questions about the causes of Cushing’s syndrome, talk to your doctor immediately.
Written by Julie M. Gentile | Reviewed by Daniel J. Toft MD, PhD, adapted from http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/cushings-syndrome/cushings-syndrome-causes
The pituitary gland stimulates all the other endocrine glands to produce their own hormones. It produces a number of hormones including Human Growth Hormone (hGH) responsible for bone and muscle growth and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which stimulates the production of the female egg or male sperm. It is found at the base of the brain.
What can happen when it goes wrong?
When the pituitary gland doesn’t produce enough ‘trigger’ hormones, hypopituitarism occurs. Most often, it is caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland although it can also be caused by infections, head injury or even stroke.
Excessive tiredness, reduced fertility, irregular periods, weight gain, poor libido, dry skin and headaches.
If caused by a tumor, surgery will be required to remove it. Regardless of whether this is successful, daily hormones will then be required to replace those no longer produced.
Filed under: pituitary | Tagged: Benign tumor, dry skin, endocrine glands, fatigue, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, FSH, headache, hGH, hormones, Human Growth Hormone, hypopituitarism, infertility, irregular periods, libido, Pituitary gland, tiredness, Weight gain | Leave a comment »