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A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine can take detailed pictures of the inside of your body

The challenges of diagnosing Cushing's disease

Although diagnosis can be challenging, it is important

Being correctly diagnosed with Cushing's disease is the first step toward regaining control of your health because an accurate diagnosis helps your doctor determine the best course of action. Cushing's disease may be challenging to diagnose because of several factors:

  • Cushing's disease does not cause the same symptoms in everyone
  • Cushing's disease may cause the same symptoms as other medical conditions that are more common
  • The tumor that causes Cushing's disease can be too small to be found on MRI scans
  • The tumor can become "inactive" so that it releases less cortisol at certain times
    • Inactive tumors can fool tests for Cushing's disease that measure the levels of hormones in your urine, blood, or saliva

Cushing's disease can be mistaken for other conditions

Doctors don't always think to look for Cushing's disease because it is rare and causes symptoms that can make them think you have a different condition. Because these other conditions are more common, your doctor will probably rule them out before testing you for Cushing's disease. These conditions include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Depression or other psychiatric disorders
  • Alcoholism
  • Weight problems (obesity) caused by improper diet and/or exercise
  • Poorly controlled diabetes mellitus
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Learn about the process for diagnosing Cushing's disease >