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Amy Schumer says she has Cushing's syndrome. What is it?

Cushing's is a disorder that occurs when the body makes too much of the hormone cortisol over a long period of time.
Amy Schumer says she has Cushing's syndrome. What is it?
Posted at 10:26 AM, Feb 26, 2024

Amy Schumer says criticism over her appearance led to a recent health diagnosis.

The actress and comedian had been on a promo tour for her television series "Life & Beth" when fans began to comment on her "puffier" face.

While she didn't love people chiming in about her looks, Schumer said in Jessica Yellin's "News Not Noise" newsletter that she "[thanks] God for that" because that's how she "realized something was wrong."

Turns out, Schumer has Cushing's syndrome.

It's a disorder that occurs when the body makes too much of the hormone cortisol over a long period of time, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Cortisol, known as the "stress hormone," helps the body respond to stress, maintain blood pressure, regulates blood sugar and reduces inflammation.

Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include weight gain, a round face, increased fat around the base of the neck, easy bruising, weak muscles, wide purple stretch marks, and a fatty hump between the shoulders.

Cushing's can cause complications such as a heart attack, stroke, blood clots, depression, high blood pressure and memory loss. It can be fatal if not treated.

Schumer opened up about her diagnosis while continuing her promo tour. 

"I feel reborn. There are a few types of Cushing. Some that can be fatal, require brain surgery or removal of adrenal glands. While I was doing press on camera for my Hulu show, I was also in MRI machines four hours at a time, having my veins shut down from the amount of blood drawn and thinking I may not be around to see my son grow up," she told News Not Noise. "So finding out I have the kind of Cushing that will just work itself out and I'm healthy was the greatest news imaginable. It has been a crazy couple weeks for me and my family." 

The actress first addressed scrutiny over her appearance in an Instagram post promoting "Life & Beth," which she stars in.

"There are some medical and hormonal things going on in my world right now but I'm okay," she said in a post announcing two seasons of the show dropping on Hulu.

Cushing's syndrome can be caused by the long-term, high-dose use of cortisol, like glucocorticoids, according to NIDDK. The medication is used to treat other conditions like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Cushing's can also be caused by pituitary tumors, ectopic ACTH-producing tumors that develop outside of the pituitary gland, or adrenal tumors which can sometimes produce too much cortisol.

While at times Cushing's can be mistaken for other conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome, the disease can be diagnosed through a patient's medical history, a physical exam and lab tests.

Once a physician determines if the cause of a patient's Cushing's disease is pituitary, ectopic or adrenal, a plan for treatment can be developed.

Treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or cortisol-reducing medicines, NIDDK says. If the cause is glucocorticoids, doctors will gradually lower dosage of the medicine to the lowest dose that will control the disorder.

Cushing's syndrome mostly affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50, but can also affect children.

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