Pituitary Gland is one of the most important endocrine gland. It is a pea sized gland located just behind the nose. Pituitary gland is also known as Master gland because it controls the activities of most other hormone secreting glands. Pituitary gland hormones is helpful in controlling growth, blood pressure, energy management, all functions of the sex organs, thyroid glands and metabolism as well as some aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, water/salt concentration in the kidneys, temperature regulation and pain relief.
Pituitary disorders occur due to the very less or very high hormones secretions by the Pituitary gland. Pituitary disorders can affect many parts of the body. Most of the pituitary disorders occur due to the development of tumor. This tumor can overproduce or under-produce one or more pituitary hormones.
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Type of Pituitary Disorders
Common Pituitary Disorders include:
- Pituitary Tumors
Pituitary Tumor can produce very less or higher amount of hormone. Most of the tumors are benign. Tumor can cause visual disturbances and headaches as they grow and compress surrounding tissues.
- Growth hormone deficiency:
Growth Hormone Deficiency in children causes delayed growth and short height while in adults it can lead to muscular weakness, fatigue, decreased bone mass and obesity.
Hypopituitarism is a rare condition in which pituitary gland doesn’t make enough hormones. It is caused by tumors, trauma, decreased pituitary blood supply, infection, sarcoidosis, radiation and surgical removal of the pituitary or a side effect of pituitary surgery.
Hyperprolactinemia is occurred due to the pituitary tumor that secretes prolactin or a tumor that prevents the regulation of prolactin production. It can cause production of breast milk outside of pregnancy (galactorrhea) and a lack of monthly menstrual periods (amenorrhea) in women while in men, Hyperprolactinemia affects sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
- Empty Sella Syndrome
Empty Sella Syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by enlargement or malformation of a structure in the skull known as the sella turcica.
Craniopharyngioma is a rare type of brain tumor. It is most commonly occur in children and teens but also occurs in adults over 50 years old. It is a non cancerous tumor causing hypopituitarism, headaches, vision problems and delayed growth.
Rare Pituitary Disorders
- Acromegaly and Gigantism
Acromegaly and Gigantism occur due to the excess growth hormone. Acromegaly occurs in adults while Gigantism occurs in childhood.
- Adrenal Insufficiency
This is a rare condition that caused by pituitary dysfunction. A decrease in the production of the pituitary hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is the main cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency.
- Cushing’s Disease
Cushing disease is a condition in which the pituitary gland releases too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Major symptom include obesity with thinner arms and legs.
- Sheehan Syndrome
It is a very rare condition caused by severe bleeding during childbirth that can cause the pituitary gland to lose function. it is a specific kind of pituitary infarction.
- Pituitary Infarction
The most common cause is bleeding due to a noncancerous pituitary tumor. It can also cause gland tissue damage and lead to hypopituitarism.
- Kallmann Syndrome(KS)
It is a rare genetic disorder in humans that is defined by a delay/absence of signs of puberty along with an absent/impaired sense of smell.
- Nelson Syndrome
Neson syndrome occurs when both the adrenal glands are removed as part of the treatment for Cushing disease.
Causes of Pituitary Disorders
The growth of a tumor is the most common problem with the pituitary. Most of the tumors are benign they can produce excessive amounts of a specific pituitary hormone, reduce the production of other hormones and compress surrounding tissues. Blood vessels and the optic nerves are closely located to the pituitary gland hence pressure from a tumor can cause headaches, vision problems, fatigue, weakness and seizures.
Other causes of pituitary disorders include:
- Inherited genetic mutations
- Congenital conditions
- Head trauma
- Low or lack of blood supply to the pituitary
- Surgical or radiation treatment of a previous pituitary disorder
- A malignant tumor
- Iron overload; hemochromatosis / frequent blood transfusions
Symptoms of Pituitary Disorders
- Vision loss, particularly loss of peripheral vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Less frequent or no menstrual periods
- Unintended weight loss or gain
- Sexual dysfunction
- Fatigue or extreme weakness
- Loss of memory
- Loss of sleep
- Mood changes
- Unusual hair growth
Diagnosis of Pituitary Disorders
Diagnosis methods are used to detect excess or deficient level of hormones, help to diagnose a pituitary disorder and to determine the severity. Diagnosis is very helpful to monitor effectiveness of treatment. Major diagnosis methods include:
- Blood testing
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- Water deprivation testing
Treatment of Pituitary Disorders
The treatment is mainly depending on the type, causes, symptoms and severity of disorder. Common treatments include:
When a pituitary tumor is present then doctor performs surgery to remove the tumor. The pituitary gland is accessed through the nose in a procedure called trans spheroidal surgery. The surgical procedure is performed only by a well experienced surgeon.
Medications are used to block hormone action, to shrink pituitary tumors to reduce compression symptoms. Medicines can be used before surgery.
- Hormonal Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is used to supplement missing or deficient hormones.
- Targeted Radiation Therapy
Targeted radiation therapy is used along with other treatments to decrease tumor size and excess hormone production.
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