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Definition of Hyperadrenocorticism

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Hyperadrenocorticism: Excess hormone called "cortisol". Often called Cushing's syndrome, it is an extremely complex condition that involves many areas of the body. It results from an excess of cortisol and its effects on the human body. Common symptoms are thinning of the skin, weakness, weight gain, bruising, hypertension, diabetes, weak bones (osteoporosis), facial puffiness, and in women cessation of periods. One of the commonest causes of Cushing's syndrome is the administration of "cortisol-like medications" for the treatment of diverse diseases. All other cases of Cushing's syndrome are due to excess production of cortisol by the adrenal gland including 1) an abnormal growth of the pituitary gland, which stimulates the adrenal gland, 2) a benign or malignant growth within the adrenal gland itself, which produces cortisol and 3) production within another part of the body (ectopic production) of a hormone that directly or indirectly stimulates the adrenal gland to make cortisol. Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), a neurosurgeon, described hyperadrenocorticism due specifically to an ACTH-secreting basophilic pituitary adenoma, a benign pituitary tumor that puts out ACTH (AdrenoCorticoTropic Hormone) that, in turn, drives (or overdrives) the adrenal gland.

Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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