Treating Cushing syndrome requires identifying and then removing, blocking, or minimizing the body's exposure to excess cortisol. The type(s) of treatment depends on the cause:
- If the source is a single benign adrenal tumor, then the affected gland may be surgically removed. In many cases, this will reduce cortisol to normal or near normal levels.
- If an ACTH-producing pituitary tumor (Cushing disease) is the cause of Cushing syndrome, then removal of the tumor will often resolve the excess cortisol. This is typically performed by a neurosurgeon. Likewise, ACTH-producing tumor(s) located outside the endocrine system (ectopic) may require surgery. If removal is not possible, then medical treatment with radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be attempted.
- Cushing syndrome is recognized as a side effect of having to treat certain conditions with high doses of corticosteroids. Typically, doctors try to avoid prescribing high doses and long-term use of these types of drugs. When possible, doctors will usually try to reduce the dose or stop use of the medication as soon as the patient's condition allows, to alleviate the signs and symptoms associated with Cushing syndrome.