Many EmpowHER readers are living with Cushing's disease. Our readers have many questions, and often provide information on what treatments have helped them. They'll often discuss how they live with this condition and what challenges they face.
Cushing's disease is caused by a hormonal disorder in the body, resulting in over-exposure to the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps a person respond well to stress, and even illness.
Overexposure can be caused by prolonged or excess exposure to cortisol as a result of:
• Long-term use of corticosteroid hormones such as cortisone or prednisone
• A tumor or abnormality of the adrenal gland, which causes the body to produce excess cortisol
• A tumor or abnormality of the pituitary gland, which causes the body to produce excess cortisol (in the case of a pituitary tumor it is called Cushing's disease)
• Rarely, tumors of the lungs, thyroid, kidney, pancreas, or thymus gland produce hormones that trigger the syndrome
Symptoms can include:
• Weight gain of the upper body and trunk
• Face shaped like a moon
• Skin changes:
• Darkening of the skin
• Purple stretch marks
• Easy bruising
• Excess hair growth or acne in women
• Menstrual disorders, especially infrequent or absent periods
• Diminished fertility and libido
• High blood pressure
• Water retention or swelling
• High blood sugar or diabetes
• Tiredness or fatigue
The new drug that has been FDA-approved is called Korlym. Because Type 2 diabetes is quite common in people who have Cushing's, affecting far more women than men, this drug is specifically tailored for those with Type 2 diabetes. Korlym reduces the effects of the overproduction of cortisol that can lead to diabetes.
The study included only 50 people but all responded well and showed "significant improvement in blood sugar control."
This drug is also specific to those with diabetes who are not candidates for other options, and it's thought that only about 5,000 people in America can benefit from Korlym. However, it may be invaluable for those 5,000 people who may have no other options.
For others, surgery, radiation or medication can help.