What are the complications caused by hypercortisolism?

Excessive levels of cortisol may cause serious health complications. The complications caused by excess cortisol are found in patients diagnosed with all forms of Cushing’s syndrome, including Cushing’s disease. Some of these complications can lead to heart problems.1

Heart risks image

Below, you can read about the possible complications associated with hypercortisolism, along with treatments that doctors may recommend to help get them under control. In all cases, reducing cortisol to normal levels is key to helping manage the complications.

Complications associated with hypercortisolism

Complication
High Blood PressureHigh blood pressure means that the body's blood flow is causing too much pressure against artery walls.1
DiabetesMany patients develop problems with the way their body processes sugars. These are called glucose metabolism disorders, and they include diabetes, a condition caused by too much sugar (glucose) in the blood.1
ObesityObesity is the term used for a high body mass index (that is, the amount of fat in the body), which particularly develops in the middle part of the body (around the abdominal area), while arms and legs remain thin.1
High Cholesterol and TriglyceridesExcess cortisol can cause an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides. As a result, cholesterol and triglycerides build up in arteries, making it more difficult for blood to flow to the heart.1

Cushing’s syndrome can also cause other complications. For example, it may reduce thyroid function (called hypothyroidism) as well as cause infertility in both men and women.1

Because Cushing’s disease occurs when excess ACTH is produced by a pituitary tumor, treatment to reduce ACTH levels will, in turn, reduce cortisol to normal levels. This is very important in managing complications.1

Next, read some lifestyle and nutrition tips for people with Cushing’s disease

Reference: 1. 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.