What are Pituitary Disorders?
Pituitary disorders occur when your pituitary gland makes too many or too few hormones. The excess or deficiency of hormones causes a hormonal imbalance in your body.
Your pituitary gland is located at the bottom of your brain. It is often called the “master gland” because it controls other important glands such as your adrenal gland and thyroid gland.
Pituitary disorders are also called pituitary gland disorders.
Types of Pituitary Disorders
There are two major types of pituitary disorders: hypopituitarism and hyperpituitarism. Both types of impact hormone production in the pituitary gland.
Types of pituitary disorders:
- Hypopituitarism — a pituitary disorder where an underactive pituitary gland does not produce enough pituitary hormones.
- Hyperpituitarism — a pituitary disorder where an overactive pituitary gland produces an excess of pituitary hormones.
The signs and symptoms of pituitary disorders vary by the specific hormone, the type of pituitary disorder, and the cause of the condition. Some conditions affect mostly women, such as unanticipated breast milk production.
Pituitary disorder symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Vision issues
- Menstruation changes
- Hair loss
- Reduced sex drive
- Slowed growth
- Sudden growth
- High blood pressure
The main cause of pituitary disorders are benign pituitary tumors. Tumors can alter the production of hormones by the pituitary gland.
Common pituitary disorder causes:
- Internal bleeding in or close to the pituitary gland.
- Injury to your head.
- Certain medications can impact the pituitary gland.
- Some cancer treatments can affect the pituitary gland.
Anyone of any age or gender can develop pituitary disorders. Pituitary disorders in adults can affect their biological children. Inherited genetic diseases can increase a person’s risk of getting the disorder.
Genetic conditions include:
- Familial isolated pituitary adenoma (FIPA) — a genetic condition where tumors grow on the pituitary gland.
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 (MEN I) — an inherited condition where tumors grow on the endocrine glands.
A diagnosis for pituitary disorders usually begins with a routine appointment, symptom review, and physical exam. Your doctor may conduct blood tests, vision tests, stimulation tests, and brain imaging. A specialist doctor, known as an endocrinologist, is typically involved in a pituitary disorder diagnosis.
Pituitary disorder diagnosis tests:
- Blood tests — your doctor uses these tests to examine the levels of different hormones in your body.
- Vision tests — your doctor uses these tests to figure out the possible effect of pituitary tumors on your vision.
- Stimulation tests — your doctor uses these tests, along with medications, to gauge hormone levels in your body. Stimulation tests are also called dynamic testing.
- Brain imaging — your doctor might use computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to capture images of your brain. These imaging scans can help identify pituitary gland abnormalities such as tumors.
There are several available treatment options for pituitary disorders. The specific treatment regimen is determined by the type of disorder, the cause of the disorder, the severity of your symptoms, and your reaction to medications.
Common pituitary disorder treatments:
- Medication — certain medications can help regulate healthy production of hormones. Other medications can help reduce the size of pituitary tumors.
- Radiation therapy — radiation destroys tumors. Different types of radiation therapy use a single high dose, multiple low doses, X-rays, or positive charged ions.
- Surgery — surgeons might remove pituitary gland tumors through your nose or through the top part of your skull. Surgery is not always necessary.
- Pituitary hormone replacement — you may need to take replacement hormones if surgery or tumors reduce your hormone production.
Your doctor may schedule regular follow-up visits. During these visits, your doctor will perform tests to check your hormone levels. If a tumor caused the pituitary disorder, your doctor might perform tests to identify the size or growth of the tumor.
If you or someone you love experiences any of the symptoms of pituitary disorders, an endocrinologist at Baptist Health may be able to help.