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Concept: Cushing's syndrome


Systemic corticosteroids play an integral role in the management of many inflammatory and immunologic conditions, but these agents are also associated with serious risks. Osteoporosis, adrenal suppression, hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, Cushing’s syndrome, psychiatric disturbances and immunosuppression are among the more serious side effects noted with systemic corticosteroid therapy, particularly when used at high doses for prolonged periods. This comprehensive article reviews these adverse events and provides practical recommendations for their prevention and management based on both current literature and the clinical experience of the authors.

Concepts: Medicine, Corticosteroid, Glucocorticoid, Cortisol, Systemic lupus erythematosus, Cushing's syndrome, Adrenal cortex, Adrenal insufficiency


Psychosocial stress alters several physiological parameters resulting in multiple disorders, particularly compromising the immune system thereby provoking various diseases including liver disorders. However, the plausible underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Recent literature provides mechanistic evidences of detrimental effects of psychosocial stress on physiology of different body organs including liver. The data of stress-induced pathophysiological changes in liver functions and obesity were systematically collected from PubMed, ScienceDirect and the Web of Science Databases published in English. Stress and glucocorticoids (GCs) control food intake and energy expenditure through appetite stimulators neuropeptide Y (NYP) and agouti-related protein (AgRP) in hypothalamus. Principle effectors of the activated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to psychosocial stress are proopiomelanocortin (POMC)-derived adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and GCs. Stress-induced GCs hyper-secretion triggers glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-dependent transcriptional factor, nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB), which interferes TNFα-IL6 and keap1-Nrf2 pathways in liver regeneration and obesity through fine-tuning of TNFα, IL6 and Nrf2 signaling. In this review, it is contrived upon existing evidence to put forward a model whereby exposure to life-stress has a prominent impact over weight gain and can alter the regenerative mode of a damaged liver through Keap1-Nrf2 and TNFa-IL6 pathways.

Concepts: Immune system, Obesity, Liver, Cortisol, Appetite, Leptin, Cushing's syndrome, Agouti-related peptide


OBJECTIVE: To test whether equivalent energy expenditure by moderate-intensity (eg, walking) and vigorous-intensity exercise (eg, running) provides equivalent health benefits.Approach and Results-We used the National Runners' (n=33 060) and Walkers' (n=15 945) Health Study cohorts to examine the effect of differences in exercise mode and thereby exercise intensity on coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors. Baseline expenditure (metabolic equivant hours per day [METh/d]) was compared with self-reported, physician-diagnosed incident hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and CHD during 6.2 years follow-up. Running significantly decreased the risks for incident hypertension by 4.2% (P<10(-7)), hypercholesterolemia by 4.3% (P<10(-14)), diabetes mellitus by 12.1% (P<10(-5)), and CHD by 4.5% per METh/d (P=0.05). The corresponding reductions for walking were 7.2% (P<10(-7)), 7.0% (P<10(-8)), 12.3% (P<10(-4)), and 9.3% (P=0.01). Relative to <1.8 METh/d, the risk reductions for 1.8 to 3.6, 3.6 to 5.4, 5.4 to 7.2, and ≥7.2 METh/d were as follows: (1) 10.0%, 17.7%, 25.1%, and 34.9% from running and 14.0%, 23.8%, 21.8%, and 38.3% from walking for hypercholesterolemia; (2) 19.7%, 19.4%, 26.8%, and 39.8% from running and 14.7%, 19.1%, 23.6%, and 13.3% from walking for hypertension; and (3) 43.5%, 44.1%, 47.7%, and 68.2% from running, and 34.1%, 44.2% and 23.6% from walking for diabetes mellitus (walking >5.4 METh/d excluded for too few cases). The risk reductions were not significantly different for running than walking for diabetes mellitus (P=0.94), hypercholesterolemia (P=0.06), or CHD (P=0.26), and only marginally greater for walking than running for hypercholesterolemia (P=0.04). CONCLUSIONS: Equivalent energy expenditures by moderate (walking) and vigorous (running) exercise produced similar risk reductions for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and possibly CHD.

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Hypertension, Diabetes mellitus, Obesity, Stroke, Metabolic syndrome, Cushing's syndrome, Hypercholesterolemia


The non-invasive measurement of adrenocortical function in cheetahs is an important tool to assess stress in captive and free-ranging individuals, because stress has been suggested to be one of the causes of poor reproductive performance of captive cheetahs. We tested four enzyme immunoassays (EIA) in two captive cheetahs in Germany using adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenges and identified the corticosterone-3-CMO EIA to be most sensitive to the increase in faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) concentrations after the ACTH challenge. This EIA performed also well in five captive cheetahs in South Africa. The fGCM concentrations across all seven cheetahs increased within 24h by 681% compared to the baseline levels prior to ACTH. Storage of faecal samples at 0-4°C did not strongly affect fGCM concentrations within 24h, simplifying sample collection when immediate storage at -20°C is not feasible. The two cheetahs in Germany also received an injection of [(3)H]cortisol to characterise fGCMs in faecal extracts using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) immunograms. HPLC fractions were measured for their radioactivity and immunoreactive fGCM concentrations with the corticosterone-3-CMO EIA, respectively. The results revealed a polar peak of radiolabelled cortisol metabolites co-eluting with the major peak of immunoreactive fGCMs. Thus, our EIA measured substantial amounts of fGCMs corresponding to the radioactive peaks. The peaks were of higher polarity than native cortisol and corticosterone, suggesting that the metabolites were conjugated, which was confirmed by solvolysis of the HPLC fractions. Our results show that the corticosterone-3-CMO EIA is a reliable tool to assess fGCMs in cheetahs.

Concepts: Cortisol, Chromatography, High performance liquid chromatography, Cushing's syndrome, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, Adrenal cortex, Addison's disease, Cheetah


An adult with ulcerative colitis and diabetes presented with a painful, swollen, edematous left foot. Diagnostic images and laboratory tests were inconclusive. Antibiotics were started immediately but aggravated his symptoms, and the laboratory results worsened. His foot was debrided twice per protocol for treating diabetic foot ulcers or cellulitis. After debridement, his condition worsened rapidly. Pyoderma gangrenosum was correctly diagnosed on the basis of massive neutrophilic infiltration detected in the biopsy tissue and because the lesion was well-defined and colored deep red to violet, unlike the bullosis diabeticorum blisters observed in the diabetic foot. His foot improved with systemic corticosteroids and topical wound care, and a skin defect was treated with a skin graft. After 9 months, his foot was well healed. Pyoderma gangrenosum can be diagnosed by careful examination and must be distinguished from an ulcerated diabetic foot lesion.

Concepts: Insulin resistance, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, Corticosteroid, Systemic lupus erythematosus, Cushing's syndrome, Pyoderma gangrenosum, Diabetic foot


CONTEXT: Prevalence of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) in patients presenting with hirsutism is not well-known. OBJECTIVE: Screening of CS in patients with hirsutism. SETTING: Referral hospital PATIENTS AND OTHER PARTICIPANTS: This study was carried out on 105 patients who admitted to Endocrinology Department with the complaint of hirsutism. INTERVENTION: All the patients were evaluated with low dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDST) for CS. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Response to LDDST in patients presenting with hirsutism RESULTS: All the patients had suppressed cortisol levels following low dose dexamethasone administration excluding CS. The etiology of hirsutism were polycystic ovary syndrome in 79%, idiopathic hirsutism in 13%, idiopathic hyperandrogenemia in 6% and non-classical congenital hyperplasia in 2% of the patients. CONCLUSION: Routine screening for CS in patients with a referral diagnosis of hirsutism is not required. For the time being, diagnostic tests for CS in hirsute patients should be limited to patients who have accompanying clinical stigmata of hypercortisolism.

Concepts: Obesity, Glucocorticoid, Cortisol, Spironolactone, Polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing's syndrome, Hirsutism, Dexamethasone suppression test



ACTH independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (AIMAH) is a rare disorder characterized by bilateral macronodular hyperplasia of the adrenal glands and increased cortisol production with subclinical or overt Cushing’s syndrome. Although the family clustering of AIMAH is infrequent, we have tried our best to find such a familial affected pedigree with complete clinical information and successfully collect adrenalectomy tissue samples from two members of this family. Using whole exome sequencing and several variant prioritization strategies based on disease network analysis, we identified Endothelin receptor type A (EDNRA) Ser420Thr mutation as a causative mutation of AIMAH. EDNRA is a member of G protein coupled receptor family and is involved in cardiovascular or polycystic kidney disease. Our findings indicate that the mutation of EDNRA at S420T site should be regard as a potential AIMAH causative variation in familial and sporadic affected patients.

Concepts: Kidney, Genetic disorder, Hypertension, Cortisol, Cushing's syndrome, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, Adrenal cortex, Endothelin receptor type A


Objective: To report a patient who had developed reversible hypocortisolism during the use of quetiapine.Methods: Early morning cortisol levels were measured on two separate days. In addition, the patient underwent testing with intravenous synthetic adrenocorticotropic hormone (1 g tetracosactide) before and after tapering of quetiapine. Pituitary function was assessed and MR imaging was performed.Results: At presentation, when the patient used quetiapine he had low early morning cortisol levels. Tetracosactide testing indicated hypocortisolism. MR imaging of the pituitary was unremarkable. The patient was treated temporarily with hydrocortisone and quetiapine was tapered. After quetiapine had been discontinued, the patient’s cortisol production had returned to normal.Conclusion: Although lowering of cortisol levels has been reported, this is the first report of hypocortisolism associated with the use of quetiapine. Possibly, symptoms of malaise in patients who use quetiapine could be attributed to quetiapine-related hypocortisolism.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Patient, Cortisol, Cushing's syndrome, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, Adrenal cortex, ACTH stimulation test, Addison's disease


Cushing’s syndrome results from chronic inappropriate exposure to excessive glucocorticoid concentrations. Low-dose dexamethasone suppression, late-night salivary cortisol, and 24-h urinary free cortisol are regarded as screening tests of first choice. Consequently, measurement of circulating cortisol (e. g., in serum, saliva, and urine) is mandatory in the diagnostic workup of suspected patients. The particular analytical procedure needs to be chosen carefully. Antibody-based immunoassays offer several potential advantages: they require small volumes and are widely available, relatively cheap, and easy to handle. Modern (ideally automated) systems also have a rapid turnaround time on a large number of samples and demonstrate high analytical accuracy. However, there are some important pitfalls. Inadequate standardization and poor interlaboratory performance remain problematic and precise reference ranges are lacking for some of the newer assays. Immunoassays are also susceptible to error due to cross-reactivity with cortisol metabolites or exogenous glucocorticoids. In contrast, steroid analysis by modern chromatographic and mass spectrometric techniques is largely independent from such interference and is therefore regarded as diagnostic gold standard. To date, however, these procedures are costly, time-consuming, and at least at present restricted to a limited number of specialized centers. This review puts special emphasis on the potential advantages of salivary cortisol analysis by immunoassays. It has been shown in numerous studies that such an approach allows excellent identification of hypercortisolemic states. In this context, use of automated systems may allow for broader use of this diagnostic tool.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Hypertension, Greek loanwords, Corticosteroid, Glucocorticoid, Cortisol, Cushing's syndrome, Dexamethasone suppression test