Amy Schumer: Actress reveals she has Cushing’s Syndrome

Amy Schumer on What What Happens with Andy Cohen, 14 February 2024
Image caption,Amy Schumer: “It has been a crazy couple weeks for me and my family”

By Helen Bushby

Culture reporter

Actress and director Amy Schumer has revealed she has Cushing’s Syndrome, caused by having steroid injections in high doses.

She revealed the condition after being swarmed by comments about her face, with fans saying it looked “puffier” during recent TV interviews.

In her initial response, Schumer attributed the change in her appearance to endometriosis.

The subsequent Cushing’s diagnosis left her feeling “reborn”, she said.

“There are a few types of Cushing. Some that can be fatal, require brain surgery or removal of adrenal glands,” the actress told the News Not Noise newsletter.

“I have the kind of Cushing that will just work itself out and I’m healthy [which] was the greatest news imaginable,” she added.

Cushing’s syndrome occurs when a person has elevated levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, inside the body for a long time. It mostly affects people on steroids.

Jessica Yellin, who founded News Not Noise, said she had reached out to Schumer after reading about the online discourse about her appearance.

Schumer replied that she had sought medical advice after reading the comments.

“I was also in MRI machines four hours at a time, having my veins shut down from the amount of blood drawn and thinking I may not be around to see my son grow up,” she told Yellin.

“Aside from fears about my health, I also had to be on camera having the internet chime in.

“But thank God for that. Because that’s how I realised something was wrong.”

Comedian & actress Amy Schumer arrives on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Image caption,Amy Schumer said she felt “strong and beautiful and so proud of this TV show I created”

Schumer had appeared on US TV earlier this month to talk about season two of the sitcom Life And Beth, which she writes, directs and stars in.

During the promotional tour, the actress, who has also starred in the sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, the 2015 film Trainwreck and 2018’s I Feel Pretty, visited The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The View.

Afterwards she faced a barrage of jokes mocking her face, as well as medical speculation and supportive comments.

“I’ve enjoyed feedback and deliberation about my appearance,” she said.

Adopting a semi-serious tone, the actress added on Instagram that she had endured such speculation “for almost 20 years […] as all women do”.

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What is Cushing’s Syndrome?

The NHS website says the syndrome can be serious if not treated, and is uncommon.

It is often a result of people taking steroid medicine, especially tablets, for a long time, which contain a synthetic version of cortisol.

Very rarely, the syndrome can be caused by the body producing too much cortisol, caused by a tumour in the pituitary gland in the brain or in one of the adrenal glands above the kidneys.

Cortisol is known as your “fight or flight” hormone. When it sends out alarm signals to the brain in response to stress, it can influence almost every system in the body, from the immune system to digestion and sleep.

The syndrome is usually benign [non-cancerous] and most common in young women.

Symptoms tend to get slowly worse if not treated, and the website said one of the main signs is weight gain and more body fat. Symptoms can include:

  • Increased fat on your chest and stomach, but slim arms and legs.
  • A build-up of fat on the back of your neck and shoulders, known as a “buffalo hump”.
  • A red, puffy, rounded face.

Other symptoms include skin that bruises easily, large purple stretch marks, weakness in your upper arms and thighs, reduced libido and fertility problems, depression and mood swings.

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The Pituitary Foundation, which provides support about Cushing’s Syndrome in the UK, told the BBC they were sorry to hear about Schumer’s diagnosis, saying it was “encouraging to see her raising awareness of her condition”.

They wished Schumer “all the best in her recovery” and encouraged anyone who thinks they may have it to contact their GP.

“Cushing’s syndrome is rare, affecting only a few people in every million, per year,” a spokeswoman said.

“Some people live with symptoms for many years, so raising awareness is key to ensuring that people can get a diagnosis.”

The spokeswoman added that other symptoms could include “excessive hair growth, irregular periods and feeling more irritable and anxious”.

Son’s name change

Praising News Not Noise as her “favourite credible news source”, Schumer said she wanted to “advocate for women’s health”.

“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,” she said.

“I want women to value feeling strong, healthy and comfortable in their own skin.”

She has previously spoken about body positivity, and said it was important to “advocate for self love and acceptance of the skin you’re in”.

“The only other thing I’d like to add is that this is a good example of the fact that we never know what is going on with someone,” she said.

“Everyone is struggling with something. Maybe we can all be a little kinder to each other and ourselves.”

Schumer added that comments about her son’s name in 2020 had prompted a similar period of self-reflection.

The actress had initially planned to call him Gene Attell, with his middle name a nod to her friend, the comic Dave Attell.

People online were quick to point out that the name “sounds like genital”.

As a result, she changed it to Gene David.

“I realised I had named my son something that didn’t sound so good,” she said. “The internet is undefeated, as they say”.

The actress, who co-hosted the 2022 Oscars, also announced she had Lyme disease in 2020.

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