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What is Cushingoid?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cushingoid is an adjective used in medicine to suggest that a person has symptoms or appearance similar to what would be expected if that person was suffering from Cushing’s disease, a condition affecting the pituitary gland where the body overproduces cortisol. Sometimes the medical community makes an important distinction between this appearance when caused by the disease and the symptoms occurring when people take medications like steroids or have other illnesses or conditions. Other times, this distinction is not maintained, and anyone with a certain sort of appearance resulting from excess cortisol levels could be described as cushingoid.

A number of symptoms are implied in this description, but one of the most common of these is facial roundness or puffiness. Round face may be accompanied by easy weight gain, especially around the stomach and on the back, which may produce a hump-like appearance. Some people also exhibit excess, dark hair growth in areas of the body where this unusual, such as the face.

Other things that can be considered related to Cushing's disease include darkening skin tone, and thinner skin. The latter can result in stretch marks easily forming. In children, weight gain could be especially pronounced, and kids usually do not meet normal growth standards. Additional features might emerge in time, including cessation of menstrual periods, muscle weakness in the limbs, changes in mood leaning toward depression, and reddening of the skin on the face.

While Cushing’s disease is typically caused by excess cortisol production resulting from pituitary gland dysfunction or other adrenal system disorders, induced symptoms tend to be caused when extra corticosteroids are given, but this is not always the case. Some people develop these same symptoms for different reasons unrelated to taking steroids or pituitary gland dysfunction. Appearance of this nature is occasionally genetic, or it might result when people regularly consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Another illness, polycystic ovarian disease, has also been identified as resulted in cushingoid appearance in some people.

Identifying cause of these symptoms is important. It’s normally fairly easy to determine when cushingoid appearance is induced, which is also called iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome. Doctors may look at ways to reduce corticosteroid intake so that symptoms recess, but sometimes need to take steroids exceeds disadvantage of bodily appearance. This may certainly be true when people take these medications to treat autoimmune disorders or to reduce likelihood of transplant rejection.

Should iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome not be the cause of cushingoid manifestation, doctors will want to rule out pituitary issues before looking at other health issues that might be resulting in the problem. These aren’t always curable, and especially those with genetic cushingoid appearance might not be able to make that many changes. For some, plastic surgery could be an option, if desired.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On May 21, 2011

One of my cousins had Wilms tumor when she was young. She was about six years old then when they found this tumor in her kidney. She had developed cushingoid because of the tumor. It was such a hard time for her and her family.

After chemotherapy and surgery, the tumor was gone and so was cushingoid. She is really healthy now, thankfully.

By ysmina — On May 19, 2011

@turkay1-- Yea, alcoholics are at risk for it. I think they have the same exact symptoms- the hump, loss of muscle, abnormal weight gain, moon face. They also have high blood pressure and their bodies cannot tolerate glucose any longer.

They are lucky though, because if they quit drinking, all of the symptoms will disappear. It might take several weeks though.

If they don't quit, I imagine it could go as far as death.

By candyquilt — On May 17, 2011

So alcoholics are at risk for cushingoid?

What if they have developed cushingoid and then stop drinking? Will their symptoms go away, or do they have them for life?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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