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Alternative Names Return to topCushing syndrome - corticosteroid induced; Corticosteroid-induced Cushing syndrome; Iatrogenic Cushing syndrome; Exogenous Cushing syndrome
Definition Return to top
Exogenous Cushing syndrome is a form of Cushing syndrome that occurs in people taking glucocorticoid (also called corticosteroid) hormones, such as prednisone.
Causes Return to top
Exogenous means caused by something outside the body. Exogenous Cushing syndrome occurs when a person takes human-made (synthetic) glucocorticoids, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, for treatment purposes (for example, to treat asthma).
In Cushing syndrome, the adrenal glands produce too much of certain hormones, such as cortisol.
For other causes and more information about Cushing syndrome, see:
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Exams and Tests Return to top
In people who use cortisone, prednisone, or other corticosteroids, the following test results may suggest exogenous Cushing syndrome:
A method called high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) can show high levels of the suspected medication in the urine.
Treatment Return to top
The suggested treatment is to slowly stop taking any corticosteroids. Do not stop taking any medicine without first talking to your health care provider.
If you cannot stop taking the medication because of disease (for example, if you need steroids to treat severe asthma), make every effort to reduce the possibility of developing complications.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Slowly withdrawing the drug causing the condition can help reverse the effects of adrenal gland shrinkage (atrophy), although this may take as long as a year. During this time, you may need to restart taking your steroids in times of stress.
Possible Complications Return to top
These complications can generally be prevented with proper treatment.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are taking a corticosteroid drug and you develop symptoms of Cushing syndrome.
Prevention Return to top
Awareness of the signs and symptoms of Cushing syndrome may make early treatment possible for patients who take corticosteroids. If you use inhaled steroids, you can decrease your exposure to the steroids by using a “spacer,” and by rinsing your mouth after breathing in the steroids.
References Return to top
Stewart PM. The adrenal cortex. In: Kronenberg H, Melmed S, Polonsky K, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 14.Update Date: 3/18/2008 Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.