Cushing syndrome: Maybe not so uncommon of an endocrine disease

Federica Guaraldi, Roberto Salvatori

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Cushing syndrome (CS) is the result of extended exposure to excessive glucocorticoids from endogenous or exogenous sources. Traditionally, the most common cause of endogenous CS is a pituitary adenoma (Cushing disease). Less common causes are adrenocortical tumors and extrapituitary adrenocorticotropin-producing neoplasias. Objectives: This review provides updated information regarding the potential for increased prevalence of CS in specific patient populations. Here the authors provide to family physicians clinical guidance for recognition of CS by presenting a case, discussing the advantages/disadvantages of the diagnostic tests, and discussing information about the treatment options. Results: CS is expected to have an incidence of 10 to 15 people per million; however, studies of patients with diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and osteoporosis found a high prevalence of CS among these populations. The clinical manifestations of CS range from the distinctive clinical features (purple striae, facial plethora, proximal myopathy) to common conditions such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Clinical practice guidelines recommend biochemical tests to screen patients for CS; however, the sensitivity and specificity of these tests vary, so a careful analysis must be performed to avoid misdiagnosis. Conclusion: CS is challenging to diagnose. Nevertheless, with a systematic approach to testing patients and an increased awareness of the high-risk patient populations, the disease can be identified in a timely manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-208
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Computer-Assisted diagnosis
  • Cortisol
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Diagnosis
  • Metabolic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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