The adrenal cortex produces glucocorticoids e.g. cortisol. Increased secretion of glucocorticoids is called Cushing’s syndrome and has a variety of different causes:

  • An increase in activity of the adrenal cortex due a tumour
  • A pituitary adenoma which causes an increase in the secretion of ACTH (Cushing’s disease)
  • Ectopic secretion of ACTH

ACTH is a hormone that is released from the anterior pituitary and it stimulates the secretion of cortisol. Cortisol in return negatively feeds back to ACTH and inhibits its production.

Cushings syndrome has many symptoms such as

  • Increased muscle proteolysis and wassting of muscles which gives the patient thin arms and legs
  • Increase lipogenesis which leads to fat depositions in the abdomen, neck and face. This gives the patient a “moon shaped” face and central weight gain
  • Thinning of the skin which leads to purple marks and easy bruising
  • Immunosupression leading to a greater susceptibility to infections
  • Osteoporosis causing back pain and the collapsing of ribs