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Pituitary disorders

Pituitary disorders - What it is

The pituitary gland is a small hormone gland at the base of the brain. It is sometimes called the “master hormone gland”, as it produces many important hormones that in turn control many other hormone glands. The pituitary gland is therefore involved in the production of important hormones, such as cortisol, thyroid hormones, sex hormones, growth hormone, prolactin (a hormone that stimulates milk production after childbirth), and anti-diuretic hormone (a hormone which maintains a normal salt and water balance in the body). 
There is a wide range of pituitary disorders. These may include:
  • Pituitary tumours
  • Pituitary hormone deficiencies
  • Pituitary hormone overproduction

Pituitary disorders - Symptoms

Symptoms of pituitary tumours may include headache, nausea and vomiting, or visual disturbances. People with a pituitary tumour may also experience symptoms of pituitary hormone deficiencies or overproduction, depending on the size and type of tumour.

Symptoms of pituitary hormone deficiency would depend on the hormone that is lacking. These include:
  • Cortisol: feeling lethargic, giddy, or having nausea and vomiting
  • Thyroid hormone: feeling cold more easily, feeling lethargic, unexplained weight gain, constipation
  • Sex hormones: loss of libido (sex drive), infertility, erectile dysfunction in males, abnormal menstrual cycles in women.
  • Growth hormone: feeling lethargic, developing increased fat and reduced lean muscle mass
  • Anti-diuretic hormone: feeling abnormally thirsty and passing large amounts of urine

Symptoms of pituitary hormone overproduction would depend on the hormone that is being overproduced. These include:
  • Cortisol: Weight gain (especially around the face and abdomen, at the back of the neck and above the collar bones), easy bruising of the skin, purplish stretch marks, reddish complexion, weakness especially in the upper arms and thighs, mood disturbances, high blood pressure, and diabetes mellitus.
  • Thyroid hormone: feeling hot more easily, tremors, unexplained weight loss, loose or frequent stools, palpitations.
  • Growth hormone: unexplained increase in the size of hands and feet, enlargement of the nose and jaw bone, excessive sweating, development of skin tags, sleep apnea or snoring, carpal tunnel syndrome, high blood pressure, and diabetes mellitus.
  • Prolactin: loss of libido (sex drive), infertility, erectile dysfunction in males, abnormal menstrual cycles and milky nipple discharge in women.

Pituitary disorders - How to prevent?

Pituitary disorders - Causes and Risk Factors

Pituitary disorders - Diagnosis

Pituitary tumours can be diagnosed using an MRI scan or CT scan of the pituitary gland.
Blood tests can be used to measure the levels of various pituitary hormones, to determine if they are being overproduced or underproduced.

Pituitary disorders - Treatments

Treatment for pituitary tumours depend on the type of tumour, the size of the tumour, whether it is compressing any important structures (such as the nerves crucial for vision), and whether it is overproducing pituitary hormones. Based on these factors, observation, surgery, medication, or radiation therapy may be possible treatment options. 
Pituitary hormone deficiencies may be treated using hormone replacement therapies. 

Treatment of pituitary hormone overproduction would depend on the underlying cause. Treatment options include surgery to remove pituitary tumours which cause hormone overproduction, or medication for certain types of hormone overproduction.

Pituitary disorders - Preparing for surgery

Pituitary disorders - Post-surgery care

Pituitary disorders - Other Information

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