Amy Schumer's Cushing Syndrome Diagnosis Explained: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments

On February 13, 2024, actor and comedian Amy Schumer appeared on an episode of NBC's "The Tonight Show" where she and host Jimmy Fallon discussed the release of the new season of her show "Life & Beth" (via CNN). After the segment, some viewers expressed concern on social media stating that the star's face looked exceptionally swollen, leading to an uptick in Google searches of a medical term known as "moon face." Schumer promptly responded on Instagram, firmly stating that while women owe no explanation regarding their physical appearance, she wanted to use the moment to advocate for women's health and encourage self-acceptance.

In her post, the actor opened up about the current state of her health, noting how she lives with endometriosis — an autoimmune disease characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus rather than it being shed during one's menstrual cycle (per Johns Hopkins Medicine). In an interview with News Not Noise, Schumer shared that the fan speculation over her facial appearance ultimately led to a diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome related to high doses of steroid injections. While she admitted that the road to the diagnosis was not easy, Schumer emphasized that she is in good health. "[F]inding out I have the kind of Cushing that will just work itself out and I'm healthy was the greatest news imaginable," she told the outlet.

What is Cushing's syndrome?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Cushing's syndrome occurs when the adrenal glands produce an excess of cortisol, or "the stress hormone." Schumer explained in her interview, however, that not all cases of Cushing's syndrome are the same. "There are a few types of Cushing. Some that can be fatal, require brain surgery or removal of adrenal glands," she told News Not Noise. NIDDK experts state that endogenous cases of Cushing's syndrome are those related to an internal cause, such as the growth of pituitary tumors. In Schumer's case, however, her diagnosis is related to external factors, known as exogenous Cushing's syndrome, which she noted will resolve on its own.

The most common cause of exogenous Cushing's syndrome is the prolonged use of high doses of a class of corticosteroids known as glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are used to treat a variety of health conditions including asthma, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. Weight gain, the development of a fatty hump between the shoulders, an accumulation of fat at the bottom of the neck, and a rounded face (moon face) are a few of the different symptoms associated with Cushing's syndrome.

How is Cushing's syndrome diagnosed and treated?

If left untreated, Cushing's syndrome can result in blood clots, bone fractures, hypertension, infections, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and more (NIDDK). In severe cases, the condition can be life-threatening. In addition to factoring in your medical history, doctors may use blood tests, salivary tests, urine tests, and more to make a formal diagnosis. As Schumer mentioned in her interview, cases of endogenous Cushing's syndrome may require surgical removal of tumors or the adrenal glands themselves. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may additionally or alternatively be used. For people with exogenous Cushing's syndrome, such as Schumer, treatment often involves slowly lowering one's glucocorticoid dosage over time until reaching the smallest possible dose that still effectively treats the condition it is prescribed for. Non-glucocorticoid medications may alternatively be used.

Schumer concluded her interview with News Not Noise stating that she will continue to advocate for women's health needs. "I want so much for women to love themselves and be relentless when fighting for their own health in a system that usually doesn't believe them," the actor said. "I am extremely privileged to have the resources I have for my health and I know it's not that way for most people. I am grateful and want to use my voice to continue to fight for women."