Effect of Cortisol Steroid - Addison Disease and Cushing's Syndrome

in StemSocial3 months ago

Hello, I was talking to a friend yesterday who started lifting weight some months back. When I saw him, he was really big, I mean like the Johnny Bravo type of big. Out of curiosity, I asked if this was the after effect of weight lifting, and he laughed. I became more interested in the sudden increase in body size and to expectation he said he was also taking steroids. I wasn't surprised because I have heard of so many weight lifters taking steroid, but I didn't expect him to take it since he wasn't a full time weight lifter, and wasn't going to be anytime soon. I seriously do ask myself why weight lifter take steroids even though I understand that they need energy but like my friend, a lot of them do not know the after effect of taking such medications and can stop abruptly which is completely wrong to do, but since they do not know, they might end up with Addisonian crisis.

Quick lecture, what is steroid? Steriods are organic molecules which are made of four rings of carbon atoms produced naturally, or synthesized artificially. They are important for metabolism and immune system regulation, but they have been abused by athletes, making them look bigger than expected, so when you think about steroid, you will be thinking the Johnny Bravo, or the Hulk (animation character) type of person. I used the word Abused, meaning it is above normal usage, so could it be less than normal, and if it is excess, what could it lead to?


Addison disease and Cushing disease are steroid related disease with addison disease being a disease that occur as a result of low production or lack of steroid cortisol. With Addison disease, the adrenal gland located at the top of the kidney does not produce enough cortisol and aldosterone homone. Patients suffering from Addison's disease look small, weak, and tanned. On the other hand is Cushing disease which is the complete opposite of Addison disease. It will be regarded as the excessive secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone by the pituitary gland, which then causes the adrenal gland to produce excessive amount of cortisol hormone which is a steroid. Patients with Cushing disease have excessive weight (obesity), high blood pressure as a result of high sodium (Na+), high glucose, muscle weakness, mood changes, buffalo hump (fat pad), large face, Hirsutism, purple striae, slow wound healing, risk of fracture, and fatigue. Just like you would expect everything related to addison will be low, starting with low blood pressure, low weight, alopecia (hair loss), cold intolerance, irritable, depression, fatigue (low energy), hyponatremia (low sodium, Glucose), Low or stopped menstrual cycle, but they poccess high potassium (k+) an high pigmentation (bronze pigmentation) which would cause muscle spasm.


Steroid is triggered by the hypothalamus in the brain, releasing Corticotropin hormone (CRH) and would cause the pituitary gland to secrete Adrenocorticotropic hormone which will stimulate the adrenal cortex responsible for secreting steroids to release Cortisol (sugar), Aldosterone (Salt), and Androgens (Hair and Sex). Cortisol is responsible for increasing sugar during stress since it is a stress hormone, Aldosterone is responsible for salt and water in the body, and eradicating potassium go of potassium, and androgens are responsible for hair and sell.

Quick one, since we are discussing cortisol, let me clarify that it can be synthetic also with its synthetic version ending with -sone, or -solone such as Prednisolone, prednisone, dexamethasone.

Naturally, this hormone is releases to shield against stress such as surgical stress, sepsis and other strenuous activities. This steriod prevents the after effect of such stresses which could include inflammation and traumatic effects. Cortisol in the blood stream will increase heart rate by sensitizing arterials and myocardium. An increase in heart rate will lead to an increase in blood pressure. It will increase the amount of free fatty acids in the blood which the liver will utilize to produce glucose. Cortisol will help release calcium for muscle contraction and nerve conduction.

Addison is caused by autoimmune diseases where the adrenal gland or pituitary gland are being attacked, it can also be as a result of diseases such as cancer, tuberculosis, and HIV, it can also be as a result of damages to the adrenal and the pituitary gland. Cushing can be caused by overuse of steroid drugs. Not everyone intends to overdose on steroid drugs, some can be as a result of long term therapy for conditions such as Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and COPD. Tumors in the pituitary and adrenal gland can also cause an over secretion of these hormones.

Treating these conditions are relatively not stressful, as Addison can be treated by giving steroids such as prednisone to the patients. In cushing disease, treating the underlying cause of the disease will be a way to treat it. Cutting out tumors in those regions and slowly reducing the steroid being produced in the body. It is important to know that these might not cure the patients, and in cases of addison, the patient might be having a life-long use of steroids. Taking these steroids can come with side effects such as rapid weight gain, sepsis,hyperglycemia (increased sugar), and Osteoporosis. With cushing disease, the gland should not be cut of, unless the patient will be on a life-long hormonal therapy. Stopping the therapy after removal of the gland will lead to Addisonian crisis which would include low blood pressure and in worst case, death.

To conclude, the human body would continually respond to stresses by producing hormone to maintain homeostasis. Either physical or neurogenic stress, cortisol will be released, and when there is stress, it will be picked up by receptors in the brain such as the limbic system which will then relate it to the paraventricular nucleus in the hypothalamus which will release corticotrophin hormone which will be sent to the pituitary gland (anterior pituitary) where adrenocorticotrophin is released and then goes to the adrenal cortex which releases cortisol which help work against the stress.



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It is no doubt that cortisol drugs can be used when managing conditions such as asthma, arthritis, and skin disorders but when they are overused, they can lead to Cushing's disease which is accompanied by symptoms such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. Athletes who steroids often suffer its negative effect over time.

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Wow.... Such an informative and educative post.
So invariably the steroids function by producing more cortisol....never knew this.

Thanks a lot for this post... I am reading even without opening my book 😂

Thanks a lot for @Stemsocial community