Hormonal balance is one of the fundamental factors, which helps maintain your health and performance.
Endocrine system involves several glands that work together and create different hormones. Errors in their functioning may lead to serious consequences.
We all know that changes in reproductive and thyroid hormones may cause a lot of harm to our body. But these are not the only problems.
Have you ever heard about small adrenal glands, located at the top of each kidney? They normally produce cortisol, which is known as stress-hormone.
In fact, this chemical plays a great role in various processes, such as maintaining blood pressure, decreasing immune inflammatory activity, metabolizing nutritive elements and regulating insulin effects.
Adrenal glands don’t work independently. Chain of reactions occurs in the brain parts, called the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland that influences on the amount of cortisol, released into the bloodstream.
If your body is exposed to excessively high levels of cortisol for a long time, you may get hypercortisolism. This condition, commonly known as Cushing’s syndrome, usually affects people between their 20 and 50 years old.
Those, who suffer from this hormonal disorder, often experience these signs and symptoms:
#1. Weight gain – Cushing’s syndrome commonly becomes apparent in upper body obesity, fatty deposits around the neck, shoulders and face (moon face). Sometimes fat accumulates on the back between the shoulders, forming a hump.
#2. Thin skin – you may notice that skin becomes fragile, heals slowly and bruises easily.
#3. Striae – pink and purple stretch marks may appear on the belly, breasts, arms and buttocks.
#4. Excessive hair growth – women, whose bodies contain too much cortisol, often have thick and dark hair on the chest, face and abdomen. This abnormality is medically called hirsutism.
#5. Menstrual irregularity – hormonal imbalance may also affect your periods, making them irregular or absent at all.
#6. Low libido in men – it’s not uncommon that men with Cushing’s syndrome lose desire for sex and suffer from erectile dysfunction.
#7. Muscle weakness – too high cortisol may be responsible for extreme exhaustion and muscle weakness.
#8. Moodiness – people with this endocrine disorder may become extremely irritable, anxious and depressed. It may be very difficult for them to stay concentrated and control emotions.
In the majority of cases, Cushing’s syndrome develops as a result of taking glucocorticoid medications, like prednisone. These steroid hormones may be prescribed for treating rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and high number of other inflammatory disorders. Medical professionals may also recommend them after transplantation to prevent rejection.
Prednisone, dexamethasone and other corticosteroids act in your body like cortisol.
If general amount of steroids raises too high, you may notice symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.
It’s also completely possible that your body may start to produce excessive cortisol by its own.
Benign tumor in the part of the brain, called pituitary gland, may sometimes stimulate your adrenal glands to produce surplus of cortisol. Doctors call this form Cushing’s disease (not syndrome).
In rare cases, tumor may grow outside of brain, but secrete adrenocorticotropin hormone, normally released by pituitary gland. As a result, adrenals get additional stimuli to make cortisol.
Although Cushing’s syndrome is not inherited disorder, tendency to develop endocrine tumors may run in families.