What is Cushing’s syndrome, as Amy Schumer reveals diagnosis

Amy Schumer has revealed that she has Cushing's syndrome. (Getty Images)
Amy Schumer has revealed that she has Cushing's syndrome. (Getty Images)

Amy Schumer has revealed that she has an uncommon condition called Cushing’s syndrome, as a result of taking steroid injections in high doses.

The US comedian, 42, opened up about the diagnosis after receiving a huge number of comments about her face because it appeared “puffier” when she appeared in TV interviews recently.

Schumer initially said her appearance was caused by endometriosis. She has been previously outspoken about the condition and in 2022, revealed that she underwent surgery the year prior to treat chronic pain because of endometriosis.

However, she recently told the News Not Noise newsletter, authored by journalist Jessica Yelin, that she has been diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome.

“I feel reborn,” Schumer said of her diagnosis. “Finding out I have the kind of Cushing that will just work itself out and I’m healthy was the greatest news imaginable. It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me and my family.”

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 1923 -- Pictured: (l-r) Comedian & actress Amy Schumer during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 -- (Photo by: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images)
Amy Schumer initially said the change in her appearance was due to endometriosis. (Getty Images)

She added that, while getting comments from people online about her face was unpleasant, it was how she realised “something was wrong”.

What is Cushing’s syndrome?

Cushing’s syndrome occurs when there is too much of a hormone called cortisol in the body. Widely known as the “stress hormone”, cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys.

The condition mostly affects people who have been taking steroid medication, especially steroid tablets, for a long period of time.

Steroid tablets are a type of anti-inflammatory medicine used to treat a wide range of conditions, from allergies and asthma to inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis.

They can also be used to treat endometriosis, as steroids with androgenic actions can prevent the growth of tissue outside of the uterus.

In very rare cases, Cushing’s syndrome can occur because of the body producing too much cortisol on its own. According to the NHS, this is usually the result of a tumour in the pituitary gland in the brain or a tumour in one of the adrenal glands.

The tumours are usually benign and not cancerous, and are most common in young women.

Symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome

The young adult female patient gestures while explaining her mental health struggles with the doctor so she can receive some guidance.
Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include a puffy, rounder face, and weight gain. (Getty Images)

People with Cushing’s syndrome may experience the onset of symptoms suddenly or gradually. Symptoms tend to worsen without treatment.

They include:

  • Weight gain

  • Increased fat on the chest and tummy

  • Build-up of fat on the back of neck and shoulders

  • Red, puffy, rounded face

  • Skin that bruises easily

  • Large purple stretch marks

  • Weakness in upper arms and thighs

  • Reduced libido and fertility issues

  • Depression

  • Mood swings

  • High blood pressure

Treatments for Cushing’s syndrome

If you have symptoms for Cushing’s syndrome, you should see your GP, who will test for cortisol levels in your urine, blood and saliva.

If the tests show a high level of cortisol, you may be referred to a hormone doctor, also known as an endocrinologist, to confirm or rule out Cushing’s syndrome.

How Cushing’s syndrome is treated depends on what’s causing it. If it is being caused by steroid medication, your dose will be gradually reduced or stopped.

If it is being caused by a tumour, you may need surgery to remove the tumour, or undergo radiotherapy to destroy it. You may also be given medicines to reduce the effect of cortisol on the body.

Watch: Amy Schumer addresses speculation about 'puffier' face

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