Amy Schumer has Cushing’s syndrome – here’s what you need to know about the condition

Stand-up comedian and actress Amy Schumer has shared that she has a rare hormonal condition known as Cushing’s syndrome.

Schumer revealed her diagnosis in an interview with the News Not Noise newsletter and while she describes going through several tests and concerns, the comedian explained, “I have the kind of Cushing’s that will work itself out and I’m healthy. [which] was the biggest news imaginable.”

What is Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when there is too much cortisol in the body for a long period of time. You’ve probably heard of cortisol as the “stress hormone”; Under normal conditions, it is produced by the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys and helps regulate a range of different body functions, from blood pressure to metabolism and the stress response.

The persistently high cortisol levels that lead to Cushing’s syndrome can have many different causes. Usually this is the result of long-term use of steroid medications, which contain synthetic cortisol.

However, in rare cases it can be caused by a tumor in one of the adrenal glands or in the pituitary gland in the brain – the latter is a certain type of syndrome called Cushing’s disease. Although the tumors are usually benign or non-cancerous, their presence causes the body to produce too much cortisol.

How common is Cushing’s syndrome and who is more likely to develop it?

One group of people at risk for Cushing’s syndrome are those taking steroid medications, although it is unclear how many of them will develop the condition. However, Cushing’s syndrome which is endogenous – caused by something in the body – is rare and is estimated to affect between 40 and 70 people per year.

It is more common in people between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can also occur in children. The condition is also more likely to affect people who are biologically female; in this group three times as many are affected as in men.

What are the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome?

How Cushing’s syndrome manifests can vary from person to person, but there are some common symptoms. Visible signs may include: weight gain, especially around the chest and abdomen; a “bump” of fat between the shoulders or at the base of the neck; or a swollen, round face.

People with the condition may also experience physical symptoms such as muscle weakness, thin skin, irregular periods and fatigue. It can also affect mood, with increased irritability, anxiety or depression, as well as decreased libido.

If left untreated, Cushing’s syndrome can lead to serious complications, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, and even heart attacks and strokes.

Can Cushing’s Syndrome be Treated?

With adequate treatment, many people can recover from Cushing’s syndrome, with their cortisol levels returning to normal. How it is treated depends on the cause, which healthcare professionals can determine through a series of tests, such as blood tests and imaging. For example, if the syndrome is caused by steroid use, the dose can be gradually reduced to the minimum needed to treat the condition for which it is prescribed.

When Cushing’s syndrome is caused by the presence of a tumor, the most common treatment is surgery. After removal of a tumor in the pituitary gland, it can actually prevent the body from producing it enough cortisol, so patients are prescribed cortisol medications, which are usually taken for about six to eighteen months. If surgery does not help, radiotherapy may also be an option.

For tumors in the adrenal gland, the entire gland is usually surgically removed in addition to the tumor. In some rare cases, tumors may be present on both glands, requiring removal of both; when this is the case, it is necessary to continue taking lifelong medication to replace the missing cortisol and other hormones.

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at the time of publication. Text, images and links can be edited, deleted or added at a later time to keep the information current.

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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