Cushing's Syndrome: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Cushing's syndrome is a rare hormonal problem. It happens when there is too much of the hormone cortisol in your body. It may be caused by using steroid medicine for a long time. Having tumors on the pituitary gland or adrenal glands can also cause it.

Symptoms often appear slowly over time. They may include weight gain, skin changes (such as bruising, acne, or stretch marks), and muscle and bone weakness. Cushing's syndrome can also cause sex hormone changes. In women, this can cause irregular periods and facial hair growth. In men, it can cause erection problems.

Treatment depends on the cause of the syndrome. If it's caused by steroid medicine, your doctor may change the amount of medicine you take. If it's caused by tumors on the pituitary or adrenal glands, your doctor may treat it with surgery, medicine, or radiation.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Eat a healthy diet that is high in protein and calcium. This can help prevent muscle and bone loss caused by the high cortisol levels in your body. Talk to your doctor about whether you should take a calcium and vitamin D supplement for bone health.
  • Limit salt (sodium) in your diet. This is very important if you have high blood pressure because of Cushing's syndrome.
  • Get exercise. Walking is a good choice to start with. Talk with your doctor about how much exercise is safe for you.
  • Get regular eye exams to check for glaucoma and cataracts.
  • See your doctor regularly to help diagnose and treat diabetes, high blood pressure, and other possible complications.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.
  • Your symptoms, such as weight gain or hair growth, are getting worse.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.