How to spot symptoms of Cushing Syndrome—the rare disorder Amy Schumer was diagnosed with


Comedian Amy Schumer announced she was diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome, a rare hormonal disease that can change someone’s appearance. 

In an Instagram post promoting her Hulu show “Life & Beth”, the actor writes, “There are some medical and hormonal things going on in my world right now but I’m okay.” She responded to massive criticism about her appearance after going on the “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” earlier this month and being called “puffier.” 

Later, the 42-year-old opened up about her medical situation in an interview for the newsletter “News Not Noise” published last week. “While I was doing press on camera for my Hulu show, I was also in MRI machines … 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 tells Substack writer Jessica Yellin. 

What is Cushing’s Syndrome? 

Cushing’s syndrome is rare, affecting about 40 to 70 of every one million people. It most commonly affects women and adults between the ages of 30 and 50.

“Cushing’s syndrome is a general term for a group of disorders that are characterized by high levels of cortisol in the body,” says Dr. Colette Knight, chair of the Diabetes Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center.

The onset occurs from a tumor or excess growth in or outside the pituitary gland, which releases an abnormally large amount of cortisol, more commonly known as the stress hormone, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). It can also stem from a class of medicines called glucocorticoids, which help produce more cortisol. While cortisol is responsible for helping regulate the body’s blood pressure and energy, too much can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms. 

Symptoms include the following, according to John’s Hopkins Medicine and other sources: 

  • Weight gain
  • Thinning skin
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar 
  • Buffalo hump (a hump of fat between the shoulders)
  • Acne
  • Bruising
  • Muscle weakness
  • Reddish-blue stretch marks 
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Irregular or stopped menstrual cycles 
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability, anxiety, or depression

“People should know that the symptoms and signs are nonspecific and can mimic other medical conditions,” says Knight.

People are diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome after a range of tests, from cortisol blood and saliva tests to MRIs to detect tumors, Knight says. Treatments vary depending on the severity and can include surgery for the removal of the tumor affecting the pituitary gland, radiation, or a reduced dosage and alternative medicine for those taking cortisol-acting medications. Schumer told Yellin her illness was caused by “getting steroid injections in high doses.” 

“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,” she says in the newsletter. 

Due to the outward manifestation of the diagnosis, Schumer took to social media to send a message about the harmful nature of the public’s commentary on her appearance in an announcement of the premiere of her Hulu show. 

“Binge both full seasons of @lifeandbethhulu and thank you so much for everyone’s input about my face!” she writes. “I’ve enjoyed feedback and deliberation about my appearance as all women do for almost 20 years. And you’re right it is puffier than normal right now … I also believe a woman doesn’t need any excuse for her physical appearance and owes no explanation. ”

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