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Keywords:

  • Diabetes;
  • endocrine;
  • hormone;
  • hypertension;
  • obesity;
  • pituitary;
  • women

Abstract

Purpose

To present a case study of a 34-year-old woman with Cushing's disease and provide nurse practitioners (NPs) with the understanding of the clinical presentation needed for early recognition and treatment of the disease.

Data sources

A comprehensive review of published literature on Cushing's disease. Findings from history, physical examination, and diagnostic studies of a woman presenting to primary care NPs, physicians and other healthcare providers with multiple symptoms of Cushing's disease.

Conclusions

Cushing's disease is the result of the pituitary gland producing excess amounts of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) causing the overproduction of cortisol. The disease is fairly rare and is seen mostly in women. Common chief complaints include increased facial hair, weight gain, amenorrhea, changes in the face, neck, and abdomen, with muscle wasting of the lower extremities. Untreated, diabetes mellitus and hypertension can occur and increase the patient's morbidity and mortality. Early recognition and appropriate referral can reverse the signs and symptoms over time and lead to a significantly improved quality of life.

Implications for practice

This case presented the challenges faced by NPs and physicians in diagnosing patients with Cushing's disease.