Pediatric Cushing's Syndrome

Pediatric Cushing's Syndrome



Cushing’s syndrome occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, which is the hormone that is connected to stress. It can be caused by taking certain medications. Less common causes include tumors that may either be cancerous or benign. 


Symptoms may include:

  • Obesity in the upper body along with a round face and neck, yet thin arms and legs
  • Skin problems including acne or reddish-blue streaks on the abdomen or in the area under their arms
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakness in the muscles and bones
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Slowing growth rates

Tests and Diagnosis

The diagnosis is based on a review of your child’s medical history, a complete physical examination and laboratory tests.

Usually the doctor will order one or more of a group of three screening tests. One looks for cortisol levels in saliva, while another measures the level of cortisol found in urine over a 24-hour period.

The third one uses a synthetic steroid known as dexamethasone to see if it stops or lessens cortisol production in the body. X-rays of glands may be used to find or rule out tumors.


Cushing’s syndrome treatment will vary based on the cause.

  • If a prescribed medication is creating the release of extra cortisol, your child’s doctor may change either the dosage of the current medication or try a different medicine.
  • If it is caused by the body making too much of the hormone, then oral medication, surgery or radiation may be used.

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