Pituitary Disorders

woman looking grimly at the camera.

The pituitary gland is a small pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain and is the “master gland” of the endocrine system.  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 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 adenomas also known as secretory tumors are those that produce too much hormone.  Non-functioning adenomas, or non-secretory tumors, do not affect hormone production.

Common Hormones of the Pituitary Gland

  • 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 normal activities but as a tumor grows, it may cause a variety of conditions.

Symptoms of Pituitary Disorders

Pituitary disorders cause a range of symptoms that may develop over time.  Functioning or non-functioning adenomas typically cause symptoms due to the following:

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

While symptoms may vary, the most common ones include:

Hypersecretion

  • Breast milk discharge
  • Accelerated growth
  • Anxiety or Depression
  • Decreased urination 
  • Excess sweating
  • High blood sugar
  • Increased body hair
  • Joint Pain

Hormone Deficiency

  • Excessive urination
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Irregular periods (female)
  • Low energy
  • Low sex drive
  • Poor growth
  • Stunted growth

Tumor Mass Effects

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vision problems

Causes of Pituitary Disorder

Non-cancerous tumors that trigger the body to create too much or too little hormone are the main cause of pituitary disorders.   Other causes include, head injury, bleeding near the pituitary gland and some medications.

Diagnosis and Treatment

happy couple overcoming Pituitary Disorder together. i

Diagnosis

When a person experiences the symptoms of pituitary disorders, a comprehensive review of their 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.

Treatment

Once a diagnosis has been established, treatments may include prescription hormone therapy, surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of these methods.

Endocrinology Specialists

The doctors at Rocky Mountain Diabetes Center are endocrinology experts and highly trained to identify and effectively treat pituitary disorders. If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the symptoms or conditions above, call Rocky Mountain Diabetes for an appointment or fill out the form below.

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