Hidden hypercortisolism: a too frequently neglected clinical condition

L. Giovanelli, C. Aresta, V. Favero, M. Bonomi, B. Cangiano, C. Eller-Vainicher, G. Grassi, V. Morelli, F. Pugliese, A. Falchetti, L. Gennari, A. Scillitani, L. Persani, I. Chiodini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Classic Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is a severe disease characterized by central obesity, hypertension, easy bruising, striae rubrae, buffalo hump, proximal myopathy and hypertricosis. However, several CS cases have also been reported with unusual or camouflaged manifestations. In recent years, several authors investigated the prevalence of “hidden hypercortisolism” (HidHyCo) among subjects affected with bone fragility, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2). The prevalence of the HidHyCo is estimated to be much higher than that of classic CS. However, similarly to classic CS, HidHyCo is known to increase the risk of fractures, cardiovascular disease and mortality. Methods: We reviewed all published cases of unusual presentations of hypercortisolism and studies specifically assessing the HidHyCo prevalence in diabetic, osteoporotic and hypertensive patients. Results: We found 49 HidHyCo cases, in whom bone fragility, hypertension and diabetes were the presenting manifestations of an otherwise silent hypercortisolism. Amongst these cases, 34.7%, 32.7%, 6.1% and 19.0%, respectively, had bone fragility, hypertension, DM2 or hypertension plus DM2 as the sole clinical manifestations of HidHyCo. Overall, 25% of HidHyCo cases were of pituitary origin, and bone fragility was the very prevalent first manifestation among them. In population studies, it is possible to estimate that 1–4% of patients with apparent primary osteoporosis has a HidHyCo and the prevalence of this condition among diabetics ranges between 3.4 and 10%. Conclusion: These data indicate that patients with resistant or suddenly worsening hypertension or DM2 or unexplainable bone fragility should be screened for HidHyCo using the most recently approved sensitive cut-offs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1581-1596
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Bone fragility
  • Diabetes
  • Hypercortisolism
  • Hypertension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hidden hypercortisolism: a too frequently neglected clinical condition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this