1. What is the difference between Cushing disease and Cushing syndrome?
Cushing disease is caused by a pituitary gland tumor (usually benign) that over-secretes the hormone ACTH, thus overstimulating the adrenal glands' cortisol production. Cushing syndrome refers to the signs and symptoms associated with excess cortisol in the body, regardless of the cause. In addition to a pituitary tumor, taking steroid hormones (often used to treat cancer or autoimmune diseases), adrenal gland tumors, and ACTH-producing tumors outside the pituitary gland can cause Cushing syndrome.
Addison disease is the lack of cortisol due to adrenal dysfunction, also called adrenocortical insufficiency. Damage or destruction of the adrenal cortex, leading to a lack of cortisol and other adrenal steroids, especially aldosterone, causes Addison disease.
3. My doctor told me that my extra ACTH is not produced in my pituitary gland. What is going on?
In addition to an excess of ACTH from the pituitary gland, it can also come from elsewhere in the body. This is known as ectopic production of ACTH, which comes from tumors elsewhere in the body, usually (but not always) in the lungs. This causes Cushing syndrome and may alert your doctor to the presence of a tumor.
This article was last reviewed on January 10, 2013. | This article was last modified on August 7, 2014.
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