Cushing’s Syndrome and Fibromyalgia – What’s The Link?

By: Watt Rydd

Fibromyalgia causes our nervous system to do a lot of things it may not have otherwise. Some people hypothesize that it’s a genetic problem, while other researchers have other theories about the cause of the disease. The sensitivity that we have all over our body can make us susceptible to other health issues and disorders.

Cushing’s syndrome, which is a hormone disorder, is sometimes mistaken for fibromyalgia, and vice versa; in some cases, you may also end up getting it alongside of your fibromyalgia as well. Because of that, we’re going to take a quick look at how these two disorders are related.

How Does Cushing’s Syndrome Affect The Body?

If you’ve never heard of Cushing’s Syndrome, then here’s a quick overview. Basically, your body is getting way too much cortisol, which is a hormone that takes care of metabolism, blood pressure, and other bodily functions and systems that need to stay regular.

When we have too much of it, our internal organs and tissues can end up having a lot of damage, and areas that are inflamed could end up being a lot more painful than they would have been without it. Cushing’s Syndrome, essentially, makes everything go out of control.

Where does Cushing’s Syndrome come from? Sometimes, the kidneys, which are the organs that affect how much cortisol is being produced and how much is getting pushed out to the rest of the body. If you use Glucocorticosteroids, which are usually given to patients that have chronic diseases of the lungs and the immune system, you could end up having out of control cortisol. The adrenal gland, which is what affects cortisol and produces it, may also be inflamed or you could have a tumor in that area of the body. The tumor would end up putting pressure on the adrenal gland and causing it to secret more cortisol than it normally would.

Like fibromyalgia, there may also be some genetics involved in this as well. Since it’s with the hormones, and many hormonal problems start with something genetic, it’s definitely a distinct possibility. That being said, there is still research going on in this area and the actual genetic links are still yet to be found. It may be with the kidneys or the adrenal glands, or it just may be a predisposition toward Cushing’s Syndrome itself. Either way, it will be interesting to see how things move forward in that area of research.

How Does Cushing’s Syndrome Affect Fibromyalgia?

Okay, so now that we understand Cushing’s Syndrome a little better, why is it related to fibromyalgia at all? What is happening in the body that makes the two so connected and causes one or the other to actually take prominence and cause pain?

First off, Cushing’s Syndrome and fibromyalgia also get mixed up a lot of the time. The main reasons are because of several overlapping symptoms, including fatigue, muscle pain and weakness, and mental health issues (depression, etc). That being said, there are some things that definitely don’t overlap, and so you want to make sure to keep an eye out for them if you already have a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

These symptoms include high blood pressure (which is caused by the extra cortisol), acne and greasy skin, problems with your sex drive, and brittle and sensitive bones. All in all, Cushing’s Syndrome can make you pretty miserable, and it is hard to really get a grip on what is going on with your body if you’ve already got so much going on with fibromyalgia.

Of course, there are other symptoms that could come up as well. For example, weight gain is actually quite common when you’re dealing with Cushing’s Syndrome. Obesity occurs because of how much cortisol is going around, and the body really isn’t sure what it is supposed to do with it all. And, as you know, obesity can cause a lot of problems with fibromyalgia, because it makes it harder for you to move around and it can cause more strain and pain on your muscles.

So how do people treat Cushing’s Syndrome? There are a few ways. First off, if there are tumors associated with the Cushing’s Syndrome, then treatment for the tumors is necessary. Many times, these tumors are benign, so it’s not really a matter of whether it’s a problem with cancer or not (that being said, cancer does have to be treated appropriately if that is part of what is going on).

The tumors need to be treated either way, so you may have to have some sort of surgery in order to make sure that they’re off of your adrenal glands. Other types of treatment for the tumors can include chemotherapy and radiation; these are used it the tumors are in an odd place or if intrusive surgery could end up causing more issues for you in the long run.

Last but not least, if you are using glucocorticosteroids as part of your treatment plan for other disorders, your doctor will have to take you off of them because they are part of the problem that is going on. The medicine switching could be a bit of a pain if you aren’t careful with it, but your doctor will keep track of any changes that you may be experiencing and will adjust so that you get the same relief that you got the with the prescriptions you were using before Cushing’s Syndrome started to become an issue.

Always make sure that you talk to your doctor if you see any additional symptoms with your fibromyalgia that you have never noticed before. It may be because there is another disease that is developing alongside of your fibromyalgia, or it may be because your fibromyalgia is flaring up. Either way, constant communication is vital in order to ensure that you stay healthy and are able to continue living as normal of a life as you possibly can with fibromyalgia.

Further reading:

Fibromyalgia: When It Hurts All Over:

Cushing Syndrome:


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