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  1. MaryO'Note: I found this article very simplistic. What do you think? This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle. Imagine the heart-pounding rush of adrenaline you’d get while bungee jumping or zip lining — that’s what Angela Yawn felt all the time before receiving her diagnosis. In a span of six years, the 49-year-old gained 52 kg (115 lbs) and suffered from joint swelling, headaches, skin redness and a racing heart. “I would put my hand on my chest because it made me feel like that’s what I needed to do to hold my heart in,” Yawn, who lives in Griffin, U.S., told Today. “I noticed it during the day, but at night when I was trying to lie down and sleep, it was worse because I could do nothing but hear it beat, feel it thump.” Yawn recalled being the most frustrated with the weight gain, as she’d put on 1 kg (2 lbs) a day while only eating 600 calories. “I was going crazy,” she said. After dozens of doctors couldn’t piece together her seemingly unrelated symptoms, Yawn sought out the help of an endocrinologist in February 2021. Blood tests and an MRI confirmed that Yawn had a tumour in her pituitary gland — a small, pea-sized organ at the base of the brain — that caused the gland to release excess adrenocorticotropic hormones. As a result, she became inundated with cortisol, a steroid the body releases in response to danger or stress. This combination of factors led to her diagnosis — Cushing’s disease. Read on to learn more about Cushing’s disease, signs and symptoms as well as how it can be prevented. What is Cushing’s disease? “Cushing’s disease is a rare but serious condition that is caused by a pituitary tumour," a specialist from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) pituitary team tells Yahoo Canada. "The gland releases excessive adrenocorticotropic hormones and cortisol into the blood over a long period of time. It’s a hormonal disorder that is sometimes called hypercortisolism, and you will need to see an endocrinologist or someone who specializes in hormonal-related diseases to confirm your diagnosis and to help you receive proper care.” Cushing’s disease is not the same as Cushing’s syndrome, which refers to elevated levels of cortisol in the blood and is much more common than Cushing’s disease. Unlike the disease, Cushing’s syndrome can be caused by taking medications that have cortisol such as prednisone, asthma inhalers and joint steroid injections. Who is at risk for Cushing’s disease? Cushing’s disease is incredibly rare, resulting in only 10 to 15 new cases per million people in the United States each year, according to UCLA Health. “It’s most commonly found in people between the ages of 20 and 50, and affects about three times more women than men,” the UCLA source, who asked not to be named, says. “However, you might be more at risk if you have high blood pressure, if you’re overweight or if you have type 2 diabetes.” What are the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease? Although each person may have a unique combination of symptoms, patients typically experience changes to their physical appearance, according to Mayo Clinic. “It’s very common to see rapid weight gain, red cheeks and bruising of the skin,” the UCLA source says. “I’ve also seen patients with generalized fatigue, depression, high blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat and loss of vision.” “The symptoms can seem random or unrelated, which is why it can be so hard to diagnose,” they add. To establish if you have the disease, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms and medical history. Generally, the first step in diagnosing Cushing's disease is determining the state of excess cortisol in the blood. Afterwards, an MRI will determine if a pituitary tumour is visible. If you have symptoms of Cushing’s disease, you should make an appointment to see a doctor or endocrinologist. How is Cushing’s disease treated? In the last decade, treatment options have changed thanks to several breakthroughs in pituitary science. “Surgery to remove the tumour is normally the first treatment option. It’s minimally invasive, has a fairly high success rate and it’s the only long-term cure for Cushing’s disease at the moment,” explains the UCLA source. If surgery isn’t an option or doesn’t solve the problem, medication and radiation therapy are other ways to treat the disease. “No matter the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis, treating it requires an experienced specialist or team of doctors familiar with pituitary tumours,” the UCLA source adds. How can I prevent Cushing’s disease? “There’s no tried and true method of preventing the condition,” the source explains. “But if you’re at risk or if you think you have the disease, I always recommend having a doctor monitor your cortisol levels on a regular basis.” The UCLA source also recommends implementing healthy lifestyle changes that can help prevent high blood pressure. Examples include reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Adapted from https://ca.news.yahoo.com/what-is-cushings-disease-experts-warn-rare-serious-condition-120015725.html
  2. By Ed Miseta, Chief Editor, Clinical Leader Follow Me On Twitter @EdClinical Sparrow Pharmaceuticals is an emerging biopharma company on a mission to help patients suffering from an excess of corticosteroids, with a focus on Cushing’s syndrome, autonomous cortisol secretion (ACS), and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). Cushing’s and ACS are both caused by an excess of cortisol produced by tumors. Patients with Cushing’s can present physically with a fatty hump between their shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks on their skin. Cushing’s syndrome and ACS can both result in high blood pressure, bone loss, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and mood, cognition, and sleep disorders. Any of those symptoms may be side effects for patients with conditions such as PMR who rely on long-term treatment with corticosteroid medications such as prednisone. “Cushing’s syndrome impacts around 20,000 patients in the U.S. alone,” says David Katz, Chief Scientific Officer for Sparrow. “Approximately 50% of those patients can be cured by surgery, but some will develop another tumor years later. ACS is an under-recognized condition, but it may affect up to 3 million patients in the U.S. There are also around 2 million people in the U.S. who rely on long-term use of corticosteroid medications to control autoimmune diseases and other conditions.” The treatments being developed by Sparrow are based on recognition that cortisol and corticosteroid medications are activated in certain tissues such as the liver, bone, fat, and brain, where in excess they act to cause toxicity. The company’s investigational drugs inhibit HSD-1, the enzyme responsible for that activation. Sparrow is about to launch a Phase 2 trial for Cushing’s syndrome. In early 2022 the company will also begin two additional Phase 2 trials for ACS and PMR, a common autoimmune disease in elderly patients. PMR is an arthritic syndrome characterized by a phenomenon known as claudication, which means the more you use a limb, the more it hurts and the harder it is to use. “For example, the more a PMR patient walks, the more painful and stiff their legs will become,” says Katz. “If they're trying to do anything with their arms, the arms will get stiffer and more painful. The disease is pretty debilitating in terms of physical function. The only approved treatment for PMR is steroids, which have side effects such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and fractures.” Unknown Clinical Challenges Katz is excited about the clinical trials for ACS and PMR because no sizable interventional trials have been reported in either of those conditions. “We're going into a completely new area, and we don't know what we're going to encounter in terms of patient recruitment and retention,” says Katz. “There is also no strong precedent for how to get approval for a drug in these conditions. The only treatment indicated for PMR is steroids, and that came without any efficacy clinical trials. There are no drugs approved for ACS. It’s hard to anticipate the challenges we will face when we are in an area that is very new.” Patient centricity is a topic that is very important to Katz, and he spends a lot of time thinking about how to make trials a more pleasant experience for patients by limiting the burden placed on them. He notes that can sometimes be a difficult trade-off because of the procedures that must be performed to meet regulatory standards. “In Cushing’s syndrome clinical care and clinical trials, the standard way for someone's cortisol level to be measured is a 24-hour urine collection,” states Katz. “That involves looking at the amount of cortisol in the urine over a 24-hour period. That collection is inconvenient and burdensome, and the patient must then carry it somewhere to be analyzed.” Sparrow hopes to shift that collection to a spot urine sample, like what patients would experience during a physical. The patient would urinate into a cup and hand it off to a clinic employee for analysis. The process would be much simpler and less burdensome for the patient. Sparrow will first need to prove that in a clinical trial the spot sample will work as well or better than the 24-hour collection. Subjects in the initial clinical trials will have to contribute the 24-hour collections so that Sparrow can demonstrate that future patients will not need to do so. The Future of Endocrinology Katz has a positive outlook on the future of endocrinology. Sparrow’s leading drug candidate, SPI-62, is an oral, small-molecule HSD-1 inhibitor. In four clinical trials, it demonstrated potent targeting of HSD-1 in both the brain and liver, and significantly lowered cortisol levels in the liver. The studies also showed a favorable safety and tolerability profile. “If we are successful at developing SPI-62, I believe it will change the field of endocrinology,” says Katz. “We aim to shift the focus in Cushing’s syndrome to intracellular cortisol as the main driver of symptoms. What I mean by that is if we find that SPI-62 substantially reduces symptoms and that the degree of inhibition of our target HSD-1 correlates well with clinical improvement, then we can get to a new standard of care. We can potentially get rid of the 24-hour urine collections, which will be a big relief to patients. Additionally, many of today's drugs have a side effect called adrenal insufficiency, which results when the drugs either reduce cortisol too much or completely block activity. Many of today's drugs also require frequent monitoring and dose titration to prevent adrenal insufficiency. We believe that with HSD-1 inhibition we might avoid adrenal insufficiency as well.” Katz is hopeful patients treated with SPI-62 will not require monitoring and dose titration. That proof will take years and lots of clinical trials. Sparrow may also produce the first targeted therapy for ACS. That could improve the recognition of ACS as a prevalent form of hypercortisolism and a substantial cause of morbidity and mortality. “ACS is probably the most under-recognized condition in endocrinology based on recent epidemiological studies,” adds Katz. “It's possible that as few as 3% of patients who have ACS actually have a diagnosis. That is shocking for a condition that is associated with a lot of cardiometabolic and bone morbidity, negative effects on mood and cognition, sleep, and muscle strength, and is associated with excess mortality. We want to bring attention to this condition by bringing out a targeted therapy to treat a spectrum of symptoms by getting to the root cause of them.” From https://www.clinicalleader.com/doc/sparrow-pharmaceuticals-hopes-to-change-the-future-of-endocrinology-0001
  3. Osilodrostat therapy was found to be effective in improving blood pressure parameters, health-related quality of life, depression, and other signs and symptoms in patients with Cushing disease, regardless of the degree of cortisol control, according to study results presented at the 30th Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (ENVISION 2021). Investigators of the LINC 3 study (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02180217), a phase 3, multicenter study with a double-blind, randomized withdrawal period, sought to assess the effects of twice-daily osilodrostat (2-30 mg) on signs, symptoms, and health-related quality of life in 137 patients with Cushing disease. Study endpoints included change in various parameters from baseline to week 48, including mean urinary free cortisol (mUFC) status, cardiovascular-related measures, physical features, Cushing Quality-of-Life score, and Beck Depression Inventory score. Participants were assessed every 2, 4, or 12 weeks depending on the study period, and eligible participants were randomly assigned 1:1 to withdrawal at week 24. The median age of participants was 40.0 years, and women made up 77.4% of the cohort. Of 137 participants, 132 (96%) achieved controlled mUFC at least once during the core study period. At week 24, patients with controlled or partially controlled mUFC showed improvements in blood pressure that were not seen in patients with uncontrolled mUFC; at week 48, improvement in blood pressure occurred regardless of mUFC status. Cushing Quality-of-Life and Beck Depression Inventory scores, along with other metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors, improved from baseline to week 24 and week 48 regardless of degree of mUFC control. Additionally, most participants reported improvements in physical features of hypercortisolism, including hirsutism, at week 24 and week 48. The researchers indicated that the high response rate with osilodrostat treatment was sustained during the 48 weeks of treatment, with 96% of patients achieving controlled mUFC levels; improvements in clinical signs, physical features, quality of life, and depression were reported even among patients without complete mUFC normalization. Disclosure: This study was sponsored by Novartis Pharma AG; however, as of July 12, 2019, osilodrostat is an asset of Recordati AG. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures. Visit Endocrinology Advisor‘s conference section for complete coverage from the AACE Annual Meeting 2021: ENVISION. Reference Pivonello R, Fleseriu M, Newell-Price J, et al. Effect of osilodrostat on clinical signs, physical features and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) by degree of mUFC control in patients with Cushing’s disease (CD): results from the LINC 3 study. Presented at: 2021 AACE Virtual Annual Meeting, May 26-29, 2021. From https://www.endocrinologyadvisor.com/home/conference-highlights/aace-2021/osilodrostat-improves-blood-pressure-hrqol-and-depression-in-patients-with-cushing-disease/
  4. Cases of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent Cushing’s syndrome are often caused by unilateral tumors in the adrenal glands, but Indian researchers have now reported a rare case where the condition was caused by tumors in both adrenal glands. Fewer than 40 cases of bilateral tumors have been reported so far, but an accurate diagnosis is critical for adequate and prompt treatment. Sampling the veins draining the adrenal glands may be a good way to diagnose the condition, researchers said. The study, “Bilateral adrenocortical adenomas causing adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent Cushing’s syndrome: A case report and review of the literature,” was published in the World Journal of Clinical Cases. Cushing’s syndrome, a condition characterized by excess cortisol in circulation, can be divided into two main forms, depending on ACTH status. Some patients have tumors that increase the amount of ACTH in the body, and this hormone will act on the adrenal glands to produce cortisol in excess. Others have tumors in the adrenal glands, which produce excess cortisol by themselves, without requiring ACTH activation. This is known as ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome. Among the latter, the disease is mostly caused by unilateral tumors — in one adrenal gland only — with cases of bilateral tumors being extremely rare in this population. Now, researchers reported the case of a 31-year-old Indian woman who developed ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome because of tumors in both adrenal glands. The patient complained of weight gain, red face, moon face, bruising, and menstrual irregularity for the past two years. She recently had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and had started treatment the month prior to the presentation. A physical examination confirmed obesity in her torso, moon face, buffalo hump, thin skin, excessive hair growth, acne, swollen legs and feet, and skin striae on her abdomen, arms, and legs. Laboratory examinations showed that the woman had an impaired tolerance to glucose, excess insulin, and elevated cortisol in both the blood and urine. Consistent with features of Cushing’s syndrome, cortisol levels had no circadian rhythm and were non-responsive to a dexamethasone test, which in normal circumstances lowers cortisol production. Because ACTH levels were within normal levels, researchers suspected an adrenal tumor, which led them to conduct imaging scans. An abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan showed adrenal adenomas in both adrenal glands (right: 3.1 cm × 2.0 cm × 1.9 cm; left: 2.2 cm × 1.9 cm × 2.1 cm). A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan showed that the pituitary gland (which normally produces ACTH) was normal. To determine whether both adrenal tumors were producing cortisol, researchers sampled the adrenal veins and compared their cortisol levels to those of peripheral veins. They found that the left adrenal gland was producing higher amounts of cortisol, thought the right adrenal gland was also producing cortisol in excess. “Our case indicates that adrenal vein [blood] sampling might be useful for obtaining differential diagnoses” in cases of Cushing’s syndrome, researchers stated. Also, they may help design a surgical plan that makes much more sense.” The tumors were surgically removed — first the left, and three months later the right — which alleviated many of her symptoms. She also started prednisolone treatment, which helped resolve many disease symptoms. “Bilateral cortisol-secreting tumors are a rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome,” researchers said. So when patients present bilateral adrenal lesions, “it is crucial to make a definitive diagnosis before operation since various treatments are prescribed for different causes,” they said. The team recommends that in such cases the two tumors should not be removed at the same time, as this approach may cause adrenal insufficiency and the need for glucocorticoid replacement therapy. From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/06/27/rare-case-of-cs-due-to-bilateral-tumors-in-the-adrenal-glands/
  5. The oral chemotherapy temozolomide might be an effective treatment for Cushing’s disease caused by aggressive tumors in the pituitary gland that continue to grow after surgery and taking other medications, a case report suggests. The study, “Successful reduction of ACTH secretion in a case of intractable Cushing’s disease with pituitary Crooke’s cell adenoma by combined modality therapy including temozolomide,” was published in the journal J-Stage. Cushing’s disease is often caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland that secretes high levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), leading to high levels of cortisol and other symptoms. Macroadenomas are aggressive, fast-growing tumors that reach sizes larger than 10 millimeters. Crooke’s cell adenoma is a type of macroadenoma that does not respond to conventional therapies, but has deficient mechanisms of DNA repair. That is why chemotherapeutic agents that damage the DNA, such as temozolomide, might be potential treatments. Researchers in Japan reported the case of a 56-year-old woman with Cushing’s disease caused by a Crooke’s cell adenoma in the pituitary gland who responded positively to temozolomide. The patient was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease at age 39 when she went to the hospital complaining of continuous weight gain. She also had excessive production of urine and a loss of vision in the right eye. The lab tests showed high levels of cortisol and ACTH, and the MRI detected a tumor of 4.5 centimeters in the pituitary gland. The doctors removed a part of the tumor surgically, which initially reduced the levels of ACTH and cortisol. However, the hormone levels and the size of the residual tumor started to increase gradually after the surgery, despite treatment with several medications. By the time the patient was 56 years old, she went to the hospital complaining of general fatigue, leg edema (swelling from fluid), high blood pressure, and central obesity (belly fat). Further examination showed a 5.7 cm tumor, identified as a Crooke’s cell macroadenoma. The patient underwent a second surgery to remove as much tumor as possible, but the levels of ACTH remained high. She took temozolomide for nine months, which normalized the levels of ACTH and cortisol. After the treatment, the patient no longer had high blood pressure or leg edema. The tumor shrunk considerably in the year following temozolomide treatment. The patient started radiation therapy to control tumor growth. The levels of cortisol and ACHT remained normal, and the tumor did not grow in the seven years following temozolomide treatment. “These clinical findings suggest that [temozolomide] treatment to patients with Crooke’s cell adenoma accompanied with elevated ACTH may be a good indication to induce lowering ACTH levels and tumor shrinkage,” researchers wrote. Other cases of Cushing’s disease caused by aggressive macroadenomas showed positive results, such as reduction of tumor size and decrease in plasma ACTH, after temozolomide treatment. However, more studies are needed to establish the ideal course of chemotherapy to treat these tumors, the researchers noted. From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/06/18/temozolomide-effective-cushings-disease-aggressive-tumors-case-report/
  6. When we become stressed out bodies release cortisol – the stress hormone – which helps us cope with challenges. Cortisol’s role is to convert protein into energy by releasing glycogen and counteract inflammation. When cortisol is released in the body temporarily, this is okay and won’t have long-lasting detrimental effects to health as it is a natural response to a stressor. But when cortisol levels remain high chronically it can eventually begin to tear your body down thus causing health complications. This is why numerous health experts recommend the reduction of stress as much as possible because in the long run it can harm our health. High cortisol levels over the long term can destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function, and weaken the immune system. Additionally, adrenal fatigue has been linked to numerous other health conditions including fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, premature menopause, and many others. High cortisol levels are also associated with many unwanted symptoms which we will outline below. High cortisol symptoms If you’re concerned about your cortisol levels, the following signs and symptoms associated with high cortisol levels can alert you and prompt you to make the necessary changes in order to reduce cortisol levels. Unexplained weight gain Skin symptoms including acne, skin infections, lesions, thin-appearing skin, bruising, growing facial hair, and reddish purple streaks on skin Muscle and bone symptoms like a deep pain in the bones, weak muscles, chronic backaches, increased risk of bone fractures Gender specific changes such as women developing male-pattern hair growth, irregular menstrual cycles, low libido, infertility Neurological symptoms such as depression, irritability, headaches, chronic fatigue, and anxiety High blood pressure (hypertension) Poor sleep or lack of sleep Swelling of hands and feet If you notice any of the above symptoms, you may want to have your cortisol levels checked to confirm diagnosis. Living with high cortisol levels over the long term can have detrimental effects on a person’s health. Treating high cortisol as soon as possible can lower the risk of long-term health problems. Causes of high cortisol There are two main causes of high cortisol: Chronic stress and more rarely, Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease is caused by a hormone-secreting tumor on the adrenal gland which results in the release more cortisol than required. Living with chronic stress also leads to high cortisol because the release of cortisol is a natural response from the body when it is stressed. The hypothalamic–pituitary-adrenal [HPA] axis is what regulates the timely release of cortisol during acute stress, but when stress becomes chronic the feedback from the HPA becomes damaged and so cortisol continues to be released. Conditions that can contribute to chronic stress and high cortisol include: Depression Panic disorder Generalized anxiety disorder Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Anorexia nervosa Bulimia nervosa Alcoholism Diabetes Severe obesity Metabolic syndrome Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) Obstructive sleep apnea Working in shifts End-stage kidney disease Chronic pain Tips to lower high cortisol Here are some tips that can help you lower your high cortisol levels and thus prevent long-term health problems associated with high cortisol. [MaryO'Note: These will not work if you have active Cushing's! You must remove the source of your Cushing's first.] Eat a well balanced meal with plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoid sugars, consume low glycemic index foods, avoid processed foods, eat a wide variety of health foods to ensure you receive all essential vitamins and nutrients Exercise on a regular basis Take time out of each day to relax – listen to music, meditate, pray, perform your favorite hobby, anything that promotes relaxation Take up yoga or tai chi Ensure you are getting adequate sleep Drink tea Watch funny videos or hang out with a funny friend Go for a massage Do something spiritual – attend a service Chew gum Limit caffeine intake Stretch By incorporating these helpful tips into your life you will find that your high cortisol symptoms begin to diminish and your overall health begins to improve. From http://www.belmarrahealth.com/high-cortisol-symptoms-signs-look/
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