Cushing’s and Addison’s diseases are two common endocrine disorders, and they both involve the adrenal gland, which is responsible for the production of cortisol and aldosterone. These disorders basically are each other’s opposites.
Cushing’s is marked by excessive levels of cortisol, and this can be caused by external forces such as glucocorticoid therapy or internal forces such as a tumor producing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) causing excess cortisol production.
On the other hand, Addison’s Disease is caused by low levels of cortisol and aldosterone. Addison’s Disease is usually caused by an autoimmune disease that damages the adrenal gland.
As a result of high cortisol levels, Cushing’s presents itself with weight gain (especially in the trunk of the body), high blood pressure, “moon face,” hyperglycemia, a fat pad on the back referred to as a “buffalo hump.” Think of King Henry VIII, as many people speculate that he suffered from Cushing’s. The treatment of Cushing’s depends on the cause. If the excess cortisol is due to steroid medications, the medication should be stopped or at least the dosage decreased. If the cause is related to an internal source like a tumor, this internal source should be eliminated.
On the other hand, the symptoms of Addison’s Disease are weight loss, low blood pressure, hypoglycemia, fatigue, and skin hyperpigmentation. John F. Kennedy suffered from Addison’s Disease, which caused his skin to be a more bronze color. The treatment for Addison’s Disease is lifelong replacement therapy of the deficient hormones using corticosteroids or a mineralocorticoid or both.