top of page
Patho-Maps (1).png

Cushing's Disease

"Moon Face & Buffalo Hump"


This video was created by Osmosis.

Their channel can be found here.

Click for Printable Pathomap


Cushing's Disease/Syndrome is caused by excessive adrenocortical activity, unlike Addison's disease where there is an underproduction of corticosteroids.



Causes of Cushing's Disease include:

  • A tumor of the pituitary gland that produces ACTH and stimulates the adrenal cortex to increase hormone production.

  • The ectopic production of ACTH by malignancies (bronchogenic carcinoma is the most common) 


Lab & Diagnostics

Labs and diagnostics for Cushing's  include:

  • Serum cortisol (normally higher in the AM and lower in the PM)

  • Urinary cortisol (acquired by 24 hr collection (Cushing's is assumed when the levels are 3 times the normal limit)

  • Low-dose dexamethasone (Decadron) suppression Test (these are used to diagnose pituitary and adrenal causes of Cushing syndrome)


Signs & Symptoms

The primary S/S are mostly the result of increased glucocorticoids and androgens.

  • Buffalo hump in the neck

  • Heavy trunk with thin arms and legs

  • Easily bruising skin, with slow-healing wounds

  • Kyphosis with backache

  • Moon face appearance

  • Weight gain


Risk Factors

While none of the below factors are direct causes, they are more prevalent if you fall into each category:

  • Women between 20-40

  • Obesity

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Poorly controlled blood sugar levels

  • High blood pressure

Risk Factors


Medical: If caused by a tumor, surgical removal is recommended. Adrenalectomy (removal of the adrenal gland) is recommended for unilateral adrenal hypertrophy.


Pharmacologic: Adrenal enzyme inhibitors (metyrapone, aminoglutethimide, mitotane, ketoconazole) may be used to reduce hyperadrenalism if the syndrome is caused by ectopic ACTH secretion by a tumor that cannot be eradicated.


If Cushing s is caused by the admin of corticosteroid therapy, a reduction may be made and an eventual taper off to treat other diseases.




Assessment: Health and History with the focus on the S/S of high concentrations of adrenal cortex hormones. Get the patient's level of activity, and ability to carry out self-care. Also, check the patient s mental status (depression), mood, etc.

The nurse is responsible for decreasing the risk of injury (impaired healing ability), risk of infection. The nurse assists in preparing the patient for surgery if a tumor or adrenal gland is to be removed.

Monitor blood glucose before, during, and after surgery as diabetes is common in patients with Cushing syndrome.

Encourage rest but at the same time, you must encourage activity to avoid complications of immobility (skin breakdown) as well as after surgery to prevent blood clots.


Addisonian Crisis: Withdrawal of corticosteroids by adrenalectomy, or by pituitary tumor removal are at risk for adrenal hypofunction and should be monitored as such.

bottom of page