Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome

The pattern of symptoms in Cushing's syndrome can be highly unpredictable.

In some cases, the symptoms can develop quickly and be very severe. In other cases, the symptoms can develop gradually and be much milder.

Weight gain and fat deposits

Weight gain is the most common symptom of Cushing's syndrome, particularly on the chest, stomach and face. It occurs because cortisol causes fat to be redistributed to these areas.

People with Cushing's syndrome tend to have:

  • slim arms and legs compared with their chest and stomach
  • fatdeposits on the back of the neck and shouldersthis is known as a "buffalo hump"
  • a red, puffy, rounded face

Children who develop Cushing's syndrome tend to be Obesity and have slow growth rates.

Skin changes

Symptoms that affect the skin include:

  • thin skin that bruises easilycortisol causes proteins in the skin to break down and tiny blood vessels to become weak
  • reddish-purple stretch marks on the thighs, stomach, buttocks, arms, legs or breasts cortisol makes the skin fragile
  • spots on the face, chest or shoulders
  • darkened skin on the neck
  • swollenanklescaused bya build-up of fluid (oedema)
  • excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • bruises, cuts , scratches and insect bites can take a long time to heal

Bones and muscles

People with Cushing's syndrome often have muscle weakness in their hips, shoulders, arms and legs.

Too much cortisol can also cause the bones to become weakened or brittle (osteoporosis) . This may lead to problems, including:

  • backache
  • bone pain
  • abone fracturingduring normal activities, such as bending and lifting
  • loss of height
  • a curved spine (kyphosis)

Depression and mood

Depression is common in people with Cushing's syndrome. It'salso common to feel unusually tired all the time, which can contribute to feelings of depression.

People with Cushing's syndrome may also experience rapid mood swingsor have emotional reactions that may seem inappropriate, such as laughing or crying for no apparent reason.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include:

  • kidney stones
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • increased blood sugar levels
  • excessive facial or body hair (hirsutism) in women
  • loss of libido (sex drive)
  • erectile dysfunction an inability to get or maintain an erection
  • infertility in men
  • irregular periods or absent periods in women

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016