Is it a thyroid or adrenal gland issue?

A while back one of our members, Sylvia, described some troubling new symptoms she was experiencing. A recent contribution to her thread on the message board here at made me re-read Sylvia’s original post. What she described was recent onset of weight gain, depression, high blood pressure and ankle swelling (edema). Her concern was that although her thyroid blood tests were described as “normal”, that the thyroid was the source of her new problems.

On second review the thought occurred to me that the combination of problems Sylvia described is typical of an over-active adrenal gland. This is referred to as Cushing’s Syndrome. With Cushing’s, due to persistently elevated levels of adrenal hormones including cortisol, DHEA, androsteinedione etc., complications develop that include the very ones Sylvia identified; high blood pressure, swelling, weight gain, and depression. Other developments may also include diabetes (high blood sugar), easy bruising, osteoporosis, unusual and severe infections, muscle weakness, and purple stretch marks.

Cushing’s can be diagnosed by obtaining a 24 hour collection of urine for cortisol measurement and by measuring levels of cortisol in the blood in the early morning and late at night. With Cushing’s, urine cortisol levels will be high and there is a loss of the daily high to low transition of blood cortisol levels (diurnal variation).

Sylvia….if you are still reading you should think about the possibility of Cushing’s Syndrome and take it up with your own health care professional. Posting a follow-up of your progress would be very helpful to us all.


Dr. G. Pepper, editor-in-chief,

These comments are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical treatment. The disclaimer at applies to all comments at this website.

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