Early Detection, Treatment Needed To Reduce Risk Of Death, Cardiovascular Disease In Cushing’s Disease Patients

Possible double whammy?

 

Even after successful treatment, patients with Cushing’s disease who were older when diagnosed or had prolonged exposure to excess cortisol face a greater risk of dying or developing cardiovascular disease, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

Cushing’s disease is a rare condition where the body is exposed to excess cortisol – a stress hormone produced in the adrenal gland – for long periods of time.

Researchers have long known that patients who have Cushing’s disease are at greater risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease than the average person. This study examined whether the risk could be eliminated or reduced when the disease is controlled. Researchers found that these risk factors remained long after patients were exposed to excess cortisol.

“The longer patients with Cushing’s disease are exposed to excess cortisol and the older they are when diagnosed, the more likely they are to experience these challenges,” said Eliza B. Geer, MD, of Mount Sinai Medical Center and lead author of the study. “The findings demonstrate just how critical it is for Cushing’s disease to be diagnosed and treated quickly. Patients also need long-term follow-up care to help them achieve good outcomes.”

The study found cured Cushing’s disease patients who had depression when they started to experience symptoms of the disease had an elevated risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease. Men were more at risk than women, a trend that may be explained by a lack of follow-up care, according to the study. In addition, patients who had both Cushing’s syndrome and diabetes were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

The study examined one of the largest cohorts of Cushing’s disease patients operated on by a single surgeon. The researchers retrospectively reviewed charts for 346 Cushing’s disease patients who were treated between 1980 and 2011. Researchers estimated the duration of exposure to excess cortisol by calculating how long symptoms lasted before the patient went into remission. The patients who were studied had an average exposure period of 40 months.

The findings may have implications for people who take steroid medications, Geer said. People treated with high doses of steroid medications such as prednisone, hydrocortisone or dexamethasone are exposed to high levels of cortisol and may experience similar conditions as Cushing’s disease patients.

“While steroid medications are useful for treating patients with a variety of conditions, the data suggests health care providers need to be aware that older patients or those who take steroid medications for long periods could be facing higher risk,” Geer said. “These patients should be monitored carefully while more study is done in this area.”

From http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/256284.php

 

Know Your Numbers and Life’s Simple 7 Hangout on Air

February 21 at , 1:30 PM

Do you know your numbers? Keeping track of vital stats like your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels can save your life. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States with about 600,000 people dying from it every year—that’s one in four deaths.

Moderated by Steve Incontrera from dailyRx, this Google+ Hangout will feature a panel of experts from Baylor Health Care System and the American Heart Association to discuss common myths and misconceptions about heartdisease related to these three statistics.

If heart disease runs in your family, is there really anything you can do about it? Can medication alone reduce your cholesterol ? Are the symptoms for a heart attack the same in men and women?

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTIONS
Our panel of experts will address these and many more questions during the Hangout discussion. If you have any questions you would like answered, please submit them in the comments area of the original post, or tweet us at #heartchat.

Other Stuff, Part 1: Cushing’s

Based on one of the comments for my first post (The Beginning), I’m going to mention some of our past medical misadventures here, too.

This one was mine, and it was a doozy!

Seven Dwarves of Cushing's

From a recent post on one of my blogs: A Quarter of a Century

I had my one, and only, pituitary surgery on this date in 1987.  Of course, I was trying to get a diagnosis for several years before that.

I know it’s hard to get a diagnosis now – imagine how hard it was over 30 years ago – before the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, message boards, chatrooms.  No online support – no support anywhere.

Finding any information possible at the Public Library.  Days that you feel like death warmed over, heading out to the library to Xerox medical articles you don’t understand, poring over them at home, trying to find any kernel of hope for what you have.  Then trying to convince doctors when your family doesn’t even believe you.

Finally, a doctor believes you…but he’s the wrong kind of doctor so he sends you away.  Another year goes by.  The endo recommends surgery but there are only 3 possibilities anywhere.  NIH – close by and free, Montreal – they speak French – and San Francisco.

After a diagnosis, 6 weeks of inpatient testing at the NIH.

From my bio at http://www.cushings-help.com/maryos_story.htm

There were about 12 of us there and it was nice not to be alone with this mystery disease. Many of these Cushies (mostly women) were getting bald, couldn’t walk, having strokes, had diabetes. One was blind, one had a heart attack while I was there. Towards the end of my testing period, I was looking forward to the surgery just to get this whole mess over with. While I was at NIH, I was gaining about a pound a day!

The MRI still showed nothing, so they did a Petrosal Sinus Sampling Test. That scared me more than the prospect of surgery. (This test carries the risk of stroke and uncontrollable bleeding from the incision points.) Catheters were fed from my groin area to my pituitary gland and dye was injected. I could watch the whole procedure on monitors. I could not move during this test or for several hours afterwards to prevent uncontrolable bleeding from a major artery. The test did show where the tumor probably was located. Also done were more sophisticated dexamethasone suppression tests where drugs were administered by IV and blood was drawn every hour (they put a heplock in my arm so they don’t have to keep sticking me). I got to go home for a weekend and then went back for the surgery – the Transsphenoidal Resection. I fully expected to die during surgery (and didn’t care if I did) so I signed my will and wrote last letters to those I wanted to say goodbye to. During the time I was home just before surgery, a college classmate of mine (I didn’t know her) did die at NIH of a Cushing’s-related problem. I’m so glad I didn’t find out until a couple months later!

November 3, 1987, the surgeon, Dr. Ed Oldfield, cut the gum above my front teeth under my upper lip so there is no scar. He used tiny tools and microscopes. My tumor was removed successfully. In some cases (not mine) the surgeon uses a plug of fat from the abdomen to help seal the cut. Afterwards, I was in intensive care overnight and went to a neurology ward for a few days until I could walk without being dizzy. I had some major headaches for a day or two but they gave me drugs (morphine) for those. Also, I had cotton plugs in my nostrils. It was a big day when they came out. I had diabetes insipidus (DI) for a little while, but that went away by itself – thank goodness!

I had to use a foam product called “Toothies” to brush my teeth without hitting the incision. Before they let me go home, I had to learn to give myself an injection in my thigh. They sent me home with a supply of injectible cortisone in case my level ever fell too low (it didn’t). I was weaned gradually off cortisone pills (scary). I now take no medications. I had to get a Medic Alert bracelet. I will always need to tell medical staff when I have any kind of procedure – the effects of my excess cortisone will remain forever.

I went back to the NIH for several follow-up visits of a week each where they did all the blood and urine testing again. After a few years NIH set me free. Now I go to my “outside” endocrinologist every year for the dexamethasone suppression test, 24-hour urine and regular blood testing.

As I get further away from my surgery, I have less and less chance that my tumor will grow back. I have never lost all the weight I gained and I still have the hair on my chin but most of my other symptoms are gone. I am still and always tired and need a nap most days. I do not, however, still need to take whole days off just to sleep.

I consider myself very lucky that I was treated before I got as bad as some of the others on my floor at NIH but think it is crazy that these symptoms are not taken seriously by doctors.

 

My whole, long journey with diagnosing and treating Cushings can be found in my bio at http://www.cushings-help.com/maryos_story.htm

Want to read more about Cushing’s?  Check out some of this info: http://www.cushiewiki.com/