Pseudo-Cushing's Disease

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Cushing's syndrome is a debilitating hormonal condition marked by excessive cortisol in the blood. Cushing's disease refers specifically to excessive cortisol occurrence because of a pituitary gland tumor. Pseudo-Cushing's disease, which has many of the same symptoms, is very rare, and is typically brought on by alcoholism, although sometimes by other issues.

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While Cushing's disease commonly requires surgery and radiation, and Cushing's syndrome may be treated with cortisol inhibitors, alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's disease disappears rapidly with abstinence.

Similar Symptoms

Cushing's and pseudo-Cushing's disease cause the accumulation of fat in the face, above the collar bone and on back of the neck. The person may bruise easily or develop purple stretch marks. There may be unusual hair growth in various body areas.

Differences in Symptoms

Pseudo-Cushing's disease sufferers do not develop the more progressive symptoms of Cushing's syndrome, including muscle weakness, skin thinning and bone fractures.

Additional Factors

In addition to people abusing alcohol, cortisol levels may become chronically high in persons who are obese, or who have clinical depression or anxiety disorders, anorexia nervosa, high estrogen levels, or diabetes.


A combination of two hormone tests can distinguish pseudo-Cushing's from the other two disorders.

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