National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers have discovered that children who have been treated for Cushing syndrome can have higher risks of suicide, anxiety, depression and other related mental health conditions.
The study suggests that this increase happens after Cushing syndrome is successfully treated.
“Our results indicate that physicians who care for young people with Cushing syndrome should screen their patients for depression-related mental illness after the underlying disease has been successfully treated,” Constantine Stratakis, senior author of the study, said. “Patients may not tell their doctors that they’re feeling depressed, so it’s a good idea for physicians to screen their patients proactively for depression and related conditions.”
Stratakis is the director of the Division of Intramural Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Cushing syndrome, caused by high levels of the hormone called cortisol, can cause long-term health complications, like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, bone fractures, serious infections and kidney stones. It is unclear whether the high cortisol levels are from tumors of the adrenal glands or other areas, which could manufacture too much cortisol, or a tumor on the pituitary, which could trigger the adrenal glands into generating higher levels of cortisol. Treatments typically involve removal of the tumor, which helps to stop the high levels of cortisol.
The syndrome can happen in children and adults; there are eight cases for every one million people each year. The scientists reviewed case histories of 149 youth and children with Cushing syndrome from 2003 to 2014. The results suggest that months after the treatment ends, six percent of the children reported outbursts of rage and anger, irritability, depression, thoughts of suicide and anxiety. These began within seven to 48 months after the treatments.
Children who have Cushing syndrome become depressed and anxious after the treatments. In contrast, adults who have Cushing syndrome become anxious and depressed before they receive their treatments. After the syndrome is successfully treated, they overcome their depression and anxiety.
The researchers recommended that children become prepared for these mood changes after they receive treatments, explaining that these symptoms may not show any relief for several months or years. Physicians are also recommended to screen these patients for suicide risk in following appointments.