Pediatric – Pituitary Disorders

Pediatric Pituitary Disorders

The pituitary gland is a small pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain.  Its function is to control the production of a variety of hormones that affect growth and other bodily functions.  These hormones stimulate other glands like the adrenal, thyroid and reproductive glands.

Types of Pediatric Pituitary Disorders

Many of the conditions that affect the pituitary gland are congenital, meaning they occur at birth. There are some that evolve over time or the symptoms are noticed over months or years. Other pituitary problems are related to tumors.  Fortunately, 99 percent of pituitary-related tumors, referred to as pituitary adenomas, are benign. Pituitary adenomas are classified as functioning and non-functioning.

Functioning tumors produce too much hormone and non-functioning tumors do not.

Common Hormones of the Pituitary

  • GH = Growth Hormone
  • TSH = Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
  • ACTH = Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • LH = Leutinizing Hormone
  • FSH = Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • ADH = Antidiuretic Hormone (also called arginine vasopressin, AVP, or vasopressin)
  • Prolactin
  • Oxytocin

As with many types of tumors, not all pituitary adenomas affect a child’s normal activities but as a tumor grows, it may cause a variety of conditions that affect a child in different ways.

Conditions typically fall under one of the three following groups: 

  1. Hypersecretion – hormone overproduction  
  2. Hormone deficiency – hormone underproduction 
  3. Tumor mass effects – growing tumor presses against glands or other areas of the brain

Within one of these three groups, the most common pediatric pituitary disorders include:

  • GH Deficiency – Underproduction of growth hormone
  • Precocious Puberty – Excessive or early production of LH or FSH
  • Acromegaly – Excess GH hormone production
  • Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency – Underproduction of ACTH
  • Cushing’s Syndrome – Excess ACTH/Cortisol hormone production
  • Hypopituitarism – Underproduction of many pituitary hormones
  • Prolactinoma – Excess Prolactin hormone production
  • Diabetes Insipidus – Underproduction of ADH

More rare forms of pituitary disorders include Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, Craniopharyngioma and others.

Common Symptoms

As a pituitary tumor grows in a child, the following pediatric pituitary symptoms may become apparent:

Hypersecretion

  • Fast growth
  • Early puberty
  • Excess sweating
  • Decreased urination 
  • High blood sugar
  • Increased body hair
  • Joint Pain
  • Milk discharge (female)

Hormone Deficiency

  • Excessive urination
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular periods (female)
  • Late puberty
  • Poor growth
  • Short stature

Tumor Mass Effects

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vision problems

Diagnosis and Treatment

When a child starts to experience the symptoms of pituitary disorders, a comprehensive review of the child’s medical history will be evaluated along with a thorough physical examination to establish a diagnosis.  The examination will include blood tests and in some cases a brain scan will be ordered to search for a tumor and then identify its size and scope.  
Once a diagnosis has been established, treatments may include prescription hormone therapy, surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of these methods.  

Pediatric Endocrinology Specialist

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, call Dr. Joshua Smith or fill out the form below to request an appointment.  Dr. Smith is the region’s only specialist in pediatric endocrinology and is specifically trained to properly diagnose and treat pituitary disorders.

Appointment Request Form – Dr. Smith

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