This gland is a critical part of the endocrine system. It has a front and back section and each part produce a different hormone.
The anterior (front) portion of the pituitary gland produces growth hormone (GH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin, luteinizing hormone (LH), and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). These are the hormones that controls blood sugar levels, muscle mass, fertility, how the body responses to stress, and the rate as to how the body uses energy.
The posterior (back) portion of the gland houses oxytocin and antidiuretic hormone (ADH). Oxytocin stimulates contractions of the uterus during childbirth and also stimulates the release of breast milk. ADH is responsible for controlling water that is released by the kidneys which ultimately regulates the balance of water within the body.
A pituitary disorder is when too little or too much of any of the hormones are produced or when a tumor is applying pressure to the tissue that surrounds the gland. Symptoms of pituitary disorders vary depending on which hormones are affected.
Some causes of pituitary disorders include:
- Trauma to the head.
- Lack of blood to the pituitary gland.
- Excess iron in the blood.
Common pituitary disorders include, but not limited to:
- Pituitary tumors are usually benign, but may cause headaches and disruption in vision as they enlarge and press against the tissue of the gland. The result is an imbalance as one hormone release is decreased while the other is increased.
- Growth Hormone Deficiency. When this disorder affects children, it may delay growth. When this disorder affects adults, some symptoms include muscle weakness, obesity, fatigue, and decreased bone mass.
- This is an imbalance of prolactin. For women, breast milk can be produced outside of pregnancy. For men, the symptoms could include erectile dysfunction and/or a decrease in libido.
How to test for pituitary disorders:
Laboratory testing including a full panel of blood work and imaging are the best ways to detect hormone imbalance. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are the best tests to detect tumors.
Treatment is based on the disorder. Replacement hormones can be effective when certain hormones are lacking. Medication can be effective in shrinking a pituitary tumor. Also, some radiation therapy may be required to reduce the size of a tumor or the production of excess hormones.
Dr. Sean Nikravan is an expert in pituitary disorders. Call the office today at 949-650-0616 to make an appointment and start feeling better.