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In The Media: Steven...


Rare disease treated at OHSU

Oregon Health and Sciences University is one of a very few research hospitals worldwide treating Cushing's Disease.

By Felicia Heaton Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cushing's Disease is a rare glandular disorder that causes rapid weight gain.

Steve Owens*** of Ohio visited doctor after doctor who said he could solve his aches and pains by stepping away from the dinner table. It wasn’t until he took a flight to Portland that he learned he had Cushing's.

"The doctors say to step away from the table and you just… you don’t eat because you’re sick," he says. "But you don’t lose weight. It’s a terrible disease, just very terrible."

Dr. Ken Ludlam, a Cushing's specialist, says the disease is most commonly found in women. It is a form of Cushing's syndrome caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, found at the base of the brain, that secretes excess levels of the ACTH hormone. That hormone stimulates adrenal glands to produce excess cortisol which wreaks havoc on the body.

"In addition to weight gain," Ludlam says, "there’s a whole series of physical changes; people have marked facial rounding, acne, hair growth on their face or lose it on their head."

Ludlam encourages people who have unexplainable weight gain to ask their doctor about the disease. He says many patients he’s treated learned about the disease on the internet and had to convince their doctors of the possibility. Some patients are sick for five to ten years before being diagnosed with the illness.

"You have to be persistent sometimes, really ask your doctor to look into it." The disease is so rare, some doctors haven’t even heard of it.

If Cushing's is ignored, it can develop into cancer. In its early stages, the disease can be treated through surgical procedures.

Felicia Heaton reports

*** Message Board Member

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