What are the Different Types of Pituitary Gland Problems?

Amanda R. Bell

At the base of the brain is the pituitary gland, which controls the entire endocrine system of the human body. While it is approximately the size of a pea, pituitary gland problems can affect almost every part of the body. There are many different types of pituitary gland problems that can occur from birth to old age. The most common include noncancerous tumors, Cushing's syndrome and growth hormone deficiencies.

The pea-sized pituitary gland sits at the base of the brain.
The pea-sized pituitary gland sits at the base of the brain.

Tumors on the pituitary gland, called pituitary adenomas, are typically noncancerous. They can, however, significantly increase or decrease the amount of hormones the pituitary gland produces, causing a host of medical issues. The most common symptoms of these problems are weakness, low blood pressure, hair loss and a rapid increase or decrease in weight. It can also result in loss of vision as well as severe headaches. Depending on the location and size of the tumor, treatment can range from surgery or radiation for removal to medication to inhibit the growth of the tumor. During treatment, medication is often prescribed to either increase or decrease hormone levels in order to bring the body back into balance and alleviate many of the symptoms.

The pituitary gland oversees the function of all of the other glands in the endocrine system, which means problems with the pituitary can impact the entire body.
The pituitary gland oversees the function of all of the other glands in the endocrine system, which means problems with the pituitary can impact the entire body.

Cushing's syndrome occurs when the body is exposed to significantly high amounts of the hormone cortisol for an extended period. This can happen as a result of a pituitary adenoma or develop when corticosteroid medications are taken for an extended amount of time. Common symptoms include having an unusually round face, the sudden and seemingly unwarranted appearance of stretch marks, as well as a visible deposit of fat between the shoulder blades. In some cases, Cushing's syndrome can also cause high blood pressure, diabetes, bone loss and excessive bruising. Treatment for this syndrome depends on its cause: Cushing's syndrome due to an adenoma is treated with radiation, surgery or medication, while Cushing's syndrome due to corticosteroid medication is treated by stopping the medication and treating the remaining symptoms.

Stretch marks with no noticeable cause may be a sign of pituitary gland problems.
Stretch marks with no noticeable cause may be a sign of pituitary gland problems.

Another of the common pituitary gland problems is a growth hormone deficiency. This takes place when the pituitary gland does not produce enough of the hormones the body needs to grow. While this disorder is rare, it is most common from birth, though it can occur in adults. When caught early enough, especially in children, a growth hormone deficiency can sometimes be treated with hormone replacement therapy.

Located in the head, the pituitary gland produces hormones and regulates several other glands of the body's endocrine system.
Located in the head, the pituitary gland produces hormones and regulates several other glands of the body's endocrine system.

While this treatment is not effective for everyone, it has been proven to help many with these types of pituitary gland problems to reach a relatively normal level of growth by adulthood. If treatment does not work, or is not given, a growth hormone deficiency can result in a smaller than usual height and can sometimes delay puberty if not prevent it all together. In certain cases, problems can be effectively treated without significant damage to one’s health. Despite this, pituitary gland problems are serious and need to be addressed as quickly as possible.

Hair loss is a possible symptom of a pituitary gland problem.
Hair loss is a possible symptom of a pituitary gland problem.
Problems with the pituitary gland can result in severe headaches.
Problems with the pituitary gland can result in severe headaches.
Symptoms of pituitary gland problems may include low blood pressure.
Symptoms of pituitary gland problems may include low blood pressure.
Some pituitary gland issues can cause vision problems.
Some pituitary gland issues can cause vision problems.
Cushing's syndrome is a pituitary gland problem that can cause excessive bruising.
Cushing's syndrome is a pituitary gland problem that can cause excessive bruising.

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