The challenges of diagnosing Cushing’s syndrome

Being correctly diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome is the first step toward regaining control of your health because an accurate diagnosis helps your doctor determine the best course of action. Cushing’s syndrome may be challenging to diagnose because of several factors:

Misdiagnosis Graph

Cushing’s syndrome can be mistaken for other conditions

Doctors don’t always think to look for Cushing’s syndrome because it is rare and causes symptoms that can make them think you have a different condition. Because these other conditions are more common, your doctor will probably rule them out before testing you for Cushing’s syndrome. These conditions include1,4,5:

Examples of when to consider Cushing’s syndrome following a different diagnosis1-4,6

Health concernYou might have Cushing’s syndrome if …
Type 2 (non–insulin-dependent) diabetes Diabetes is not adequately controlled by standard treatment
Weight problems Weight gain is unmanageable and is concentrated in the abdomen, with arms and legs remaining thin
Hair growth There is an abnormal increase in facial/body hair growth in women (called “hirsutism”)
Facial changes The face stays red and continues to get rounder
Osteoporosis You develop this condition at a younger age

Through general awareness of the signs, symptoms, and conditions associated with Cushing’s syndrome, more people may be diagnosed and treated earlier.

Learn about the process for diagnosing Cushing’s disease

References: 1. Nieman LK, Ilias I. Evaluation and treatment of Cushing’s syndrome. Am J Med. 2005;118:1340-1346. 2. Newell-Price J, Bertagna X, Grossman AB, Nieman LK. Cushing's syndrome. Lancet. 2006;367:1605-1617. 3. National Institutes of Health. Cushing’s syndrome. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; 2008. 4. Arnaldi G, Angeli A, Atkinson AB, et al. Diagnosis and complications of Cushing's syndrome: a consensus statement. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88:5593-5602. 5. Nieman LK, Biller BMK, Findling JW, et al. The diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93:1526-1540. 6. The Hormone Foundation’s patient guide to the diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome. The Hormone Foundation. http://www.hormone.org/resources/patient_guides/upload/mgmt-cushings-syndrome-070609.pdf. Accessed August 4, 2009.