Day 2, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

The Seven Dwarves of Cushing's

So, these are only seven of the many, many symptoms of Cushing’s.  I had those above – and I often felt like I looked like one of those little bearded dwarves.

Cushing’s affects every part of the body.  It’s not like when I had kidney cancer and only the kidney was affected.

Here are some of the many areas affected.

  • Progressive obesity and skin changes
  • Weight gain and fatty tissue deposits, particularly around the midsection and upper back, in the face (moon face) and between the shoulders (buffalo hump). Some symptoms such as sudden weight gain, are caused by excess cortisol. The excess cortisol in the body does not increase protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It slows or nearly disables metabolism function, which can cause weight gain (fat accumulation) in the buttocks, abdomen, cheeks, neck, or upper back.
  • Loss of muscle mass. Some areas of the body, such as the arms and legs, will remain thin.
  • Pink or purple stretch marks (striae) on the skin of the abdomen, thighs, breasts and arms
  • Thinning, fragile skin that bruises easily
  • Slow healing of cuts, insect bites and infections
  • Acne

Women with Cushing’s syndrome may experience:

  • Thicker or more visible body and facial hair (hirsutism)
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods

Men with Cushing’s syndrome may experience:

  • Decreased libido
  • Decreased fertility
  • Erectile dysfunction

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Loss of emotional control
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • New or worsened high blood pressure
  • Glucose intolerance that may lead to diabetes
  • Headache
  • Bone loss, leading to fractures over time
  • Hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids – cholesterol – in the blood stream)
  • Recurrent opportunistic or bacterial infections
Think you have Cushing’s?  Get to a doctor and don’t give up!

MaryO
         MaryO

Day 1: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

April is always Cushing’s Awareness Challenge month because Dr. Harvey Cushing was born on April 8th, 1869.

30-posts

Thanks to Robin for this wonderful past logo!  I’ve participated in these 30 days for Cushing’s Awareness several times so I’m not quite sure what is left to say this year but I always want to get the word out when I can.

As I see it, there have been some strides the diagnosis or treatment of Cushing’s since last year.  More drug companies are getting involved, more doctors seem to be willing to test, a bit more awareness, maybe.


April Fool's Day

How fitting that this challenge should begin on April Fool’s Day.  So much of Cushing’s  Syndrome/Disease makes us Cushies seem like we’re the April Fool.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s the doctors who are the April Fools…

Doctors tell us Cushing’s is too rare – you couldn’t possibly have it.  April Fools!

All you have to do is exercise and diet.  You’ll feel better.  April Fools!

Those bruises on your legs?  You’re just clumsy. April Fools!

Sorry you’re growing all that hair on your chin.  That happens as you age, you know.  April Fools!

Did you say you sleep all day?  You’re just lazy.  If you exercised more, you’d have more energy. April Fools!

You don’t have stretch marks.  April Fools!

You have stretch marks but they are the wrong [color/length/direction] April Fools!

The hump on the back of your neck is from your poor posture. April Fools!

Your MRI didn’t show a tumor.  You couldn’t have Cushing’s. April Fools!

This is all in your mind.  Take this prescription for antidepressants and go home.  April Fools!

If you have this one surgery, your life will get back to normal within a few months. April Fools!

What?  You had transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing’s?  You wasted your time and money. April Fools!

I am the doctor.  I know everything.  Do not try to find out any information online. You could not have Cushing’s.  It’s too rare…  April FOOL!

All this reminds me of a wonderful video a message board member posted a while ago:

So now – who is the April Fool?  It wasn’t me.  Don’t let it be you, either!

Identification Of Potential Markers For Cushing’s Disease

Endocr Pract. 2016 Jan 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Cushing’s disease (CD) causes a wide variety of nonspecific symptoms, which may result in delayed diagnosis. It may be possible to uncover unusual combinations of otherwise common symptoms using ICD-9-CM codes. Our aim was to identify and evaluate dyads of clinical symptoms or conditions associated with CD.

METHODS:

We conducted a matched case-control study using a commercial healthcare insurance claims database, designed to compare the relative risk (RR) of individual conditions and dyad combinations of conditions among patients with CD versus matched non-CD controls.

RESULTS:

With expert endocrinologist input, we isolated 10 key conditions (localized adiposity, hirsutism, facial plethora, polycystic ovary syndrome, abnormal weight gain, hypokalemia, deep venous thrombosis, muscle weakness, female balding, osteoporosis) with RR varying from 5.1 for osteoporosis to 27.8 for hirsutism. The RR of dyads of these conditions ranged from 4.1 for psychiatric disorders/serious infections to 128.0 for hirsutism/fatigue in patients with vs. without CD. Construction of uncommon dyads resulted in further increases in RR beyond single condition analyses, such as osteoporosis alone had RR of 5.3, which increased to 8.3 with serious infections and to 52.0 with obesity.

CONCLUSION:

This study demonstrated that RR of any one of 10 key conditions selected by expert opinion was ≥5 times greater in CD compared to non-CD, and nearly all dyads had RR≥5. An uncommon dyad of osteoporosis and obesity had an RR of 52.0. If clinicians consider the diagnosis of CD when the highest-risk conditions are seen, identification of this rare disease may improve.

KEYWORDS:

Cushing’s disease; delay in diagnosis; disease markers; insurance claims; relative risk

PMID:
26789346
[PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26789346

Cushing’s: Update on signs, symptoms and biochemical screening

10.1530/EJE-15-0464

  1. Lynnette Nieman

+Author Affiliations


  1. L Nieman, RBMB, NIH, Bethesda, 20817-1109, United States
  1. Correspondence: Lynnette Nieman, Email: niemanl@mail.nih.gov

Abstract

Endogenous pathologic hypercortisolism, or Cushing’s syndrome, is associated with poor quality of life, morbidity and increased mortality. Early diagnosis may mitigate against this natural history of the disorder.

The clinical presentation of Cushing’s syndrome varies, in part related to the extent and duration of cortisol excess. When hypercortisolism is severe, its signs and symptoms are unmistakable. However, most of the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are common in the general population (e.g. hypertension and weight gain) and not all are present in every patient.

In addition to classical features of glucocorticoid excess, such as proximal muscle weakness and wide purple striae, patients may present with the associated co-morbidities that are caused by hypercortisolism. These include cardiovascular disease, thromboembolic disease, psychiatric and cognitive deficits, and infections. As a result, internists and generalists must consider Cushing’s syndrome as a cause, and endocrinologists should search for and treat these co-morbidities.

Recommended tests to screen for Cushing’s syndrome include 1 mg dexamethasone suppression, urine free cortisol and late night salivary cortisol. These may be slightly elevated in patients with physiologic hypercortisolism, which should be excluded, along with exogenous glucocorticoid use. Each screening test has caveats and the choice of tests should be individualized based on each patient’s characteristics and lifestyle.

The objective of this review was to update the readership on the clinical and biochemical features of Cushing’s syndrome that are useful when evaluating patients for this diagnosis.

Read the entire manuscript at http://www.eje-online.org/content/early/2015/07/08/EJE-15-0464.full.pdf+html

Day 6: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2015

People sometimes ask me how I found out I had Cushing’s Disease.  Theoretically, it was easy.  In practice, it was very difficult.

Ladies Home Journal, 1983In 1983 I came across a little article in the Ladies Home Journal which said “If you have these symptoms…”

I found the row with my symptoms and the answer read “…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”.

After that article, I started reading everything I could on Cushing’s, I bought books that mentioned Cushing’s. I asked and asked my doctors for many years and all of them said that I couldn’t have it.  It was too rare.  I was rejected each time.

 

 

Due to all my reading at the library, I was sure I had Cushing’s but no one would believe me. My doctors would say that Cushing’s Disease is too rare, that I was making this up and that I couldn’t have it.

In med school, student doctors are told “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras“.

According to Wikipedia: “Zebra is a medical slang term for a surprising diagnosis. Although rare diseases are, in general, surprising when they are encountered, other diseases can be surprising in a particular person and time, and so “zebra” is the broader concept.

The term derives from the aphorism “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra”, which was coined in a slightly modified form in the late 1940s by Dr. Theodore Woodward, a former professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Since horses are the most commonly encountered hoofed animal and zebras are very rare, logically you could confidently guess that the animal making the hoofbeats is probably a horse. By 1960, the aphorism was widely known in medical circles.”

So doctors typically go for the easily diagnosed, common diseases.  Just because something is rare doesn’t mean that no one gets it.  We shouldn’t be dismissed because we’re too hard to diagnose.

When I was finally diagnosed in 1987, 4 years later, it was only because I started bleeding under the skin. My husband made circles around the outside perimeter each hour with a marker so my leg looked like a cut log with rings.

When I went to my Internist the next day he was shocked at the size of the rings. He now thought I had a blood disorder so he sent me to a Hematologist/Oncologist.

Fortunately, he ran a twenty-four hour urine test and really looked at me and listened to me.  Both he and his partner recognized that I had Cushing’s but, of course, couldn’t do anything further with me.  They packed me off to an endo where the process started again.

My final diagnosis was in October, 1987.  Quite a long time to simply  “…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”.

Looking back, I can see Cushing’s symptoms much earlier than 1983.  But, that ‘s for a different post.

 

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