Complications of Cushing's syndrome: state of the art

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2016 Jul;4(7):611-29. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(16)00086-3. Epub 2016 May 10.


Cushing's syndrome is a serious endocrine disease caused by chronic, autonomous, and excessive secretion of cortisol. The syndrome is associated with increased mortality and impaired quality of life because of the occurrence of comorbidities. These clinical complications include metabolic syndrome, consisting of systemic arterial hypertension, visceral obesity, impairment of glucose metabolism, and dyslipidaemia; musculoskeletal disorders, such as myopathy, osteoporosis, and skeletal fractures; neuropsychiatric disorders, such as impairment of cognitive function, depression, or mania; impairment of reproductive and sexual function; and dermatological manifestations, mainly represented by acne, hirsutism, and alopecia. Hypertension in patients with Cushing's syndrome has a multifactorial pathogenesis and contributes to the increased risk for myocardial infarction, cardiac failure, or stroke, which are the most common causes of death; risks of these outcomes are exacerbated by a prothrombotic diathesis and hypokalaemia. Neuropsychiatric disorders can be responsible for suicide. Immune disorders are common; immunosuppression during active disease causes susceptibility to infections, possibly complicated by sepsis, an important cause of death, whereas immune rebound after disease remission can exacerbate underlying autoimmune diseases. Prompt treatment of cortisol excess and specific treatments of comorbidities are crucial to prevent serious clinical complications and reduce the mortality associated with Cushing's syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cushing Syndrome / complications*
  • Cushing Syndrome / mortality
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology