What is Panhypopituitarism?

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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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Panhypopituitarism is a growth hormone deficiency that can result in stunted growth, dwarfism, and other major health problems. This condition is caused by the shut down or limited functioning of the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. Normally, this gland produces important hormones, but the production can be disrupted due to cancer, genetics, or other factors. In adults, the hormone deficiency can lead to obesity, low blood sugar levels, and general weakness. Panhypopituitarism in children is most noticeable due to the child’s stunted growth, which can be quite severe when the deficiency is left untreated.

The symptoms of panhypopituitarism vary depending on the age of the person affected. In infants, the symptoms of this condition may include defects of the face, ambiguous genitalia, and seizures. Older children with panhypopituitarism usually have symptoms such as an abnormally slow growth rate and slow sexual maturation. Panhypopituitarism in adults generally leads to obesity; changes in the skin, hair, and nails; and a decrease in libido and sexual function. Many cases of this condition in adults go undiagnosed, and are therefore left untreated; the person usually leads a relatively normal life, though he or she tends to be unnaturally short and rarely experiences sexual arousal.


Many conditions, injuries, and infections can lead to panhypopituitarism, but all of them can affect the pituitary gland in a way that leads to abnormally low hormone levels. One way the pituitary gland can be damaged is because of a syndrome called Sheehan’s syndrome, which usually occurs due to a loss of blood during pregnancy and that leads to low blood pressure and cell death. Some people are born with this syndrome because of other associated conditions, issues during birth, or an unsuccessful development of the pituitary gland. Direct injuries to the brain, such as trauma, radiation therapies, and brain surgery, can also cause panhypopituitarism by harming the pituitary gland.

One method of treating panhypopituitarism is replacing the hormones that are not being produced. These treatments are highly dependent upon how low the hormone levels are, and what life circumstances the patient is currently undergoing. Often, hormone replacement therapies do not completely eradicate issues caused by not having adequate hormone levels, and other associated conditions must be treated directly. Another important aspect of treating panhypopituitarism is fixing the original cause, which may involve surgery or radiation to fight a tumor, medications to fight infections, as well as other treatments for many possible underlying conditions.


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Post 7

I suppose this could describe what I have, so I'll leave my situation for anyone interested to read through. (I'm English so excuse my spelling)

I'm 18 now, but when I was five years old, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour called a craniopharyngioma. This is right near the pituitary gland. I had surgery to remove the tumour, and unfortunately they had to remove the pituitary gland as well.

Since someone asked about brain tumours and how they are diagnosed, I thought I'd mention that mine was found during a routine check-up. The school nurse realized that the vision in my left eye was disturbed, so I was sent for an MRI scan and then diagnosed.

At age 11

, I was given radiotherapy because the tumour recurred. Radiotherapy could have treated the tumour when I was younger, but it can be risky with young children and so is usually avoided. For this specific type of tumour, I don't think chemotherapy is used It was never an option in my case.

Since the age of 5, I have undergone full-hormonal replacement treatment, which has changed a bit as I've grown. I've always taken levothyroxine (a synthetic form of thyroid), hydrocortisone (cortisol) and DDAVP (desmopressin acetate - a synthetic replacement for vasopressin). Through my childhood to when I stopped growing more than 2cm a year, I had a daily growth hormone injection (using nordipen), and through my adolescence I've had to take various female hormones (estrogen, then climagest and then femoston). In addition to this, if I have an accident (e.g. broken bone or knocked unconscious), I require an extra steroid injection to recover.

As anon273854 said, someone like me might sometimes require hospitalization for illnesses someone without hypopituitarism might not (e.g. a virus last year left me so sick I had to be put on a drip whereas my brother recovered by himself in a day).

However, it is definitely possible (once you have the right medication) to live a perfectly ordinary (or extraordinary) life.

If you suspect any sort of hormonal deficiency, the sooner you are treated for it, the better, so see a doctor straight away because it may be something quite serious.

And best wishes to everyone else who is caught up in the system. Hopefully something I've said was useful.

Post 5

My son has panhypopituitarism and he gets growth hormones, levothyroxine and hydrocortisone. Panhypopituitarism means all of your hormones you produce naturally, are not produced due to your pituitary gland not developing properly. You have to monitor your blood sugars all the time and in the event of sickness you have to go to the hospital because your body doesn't produce cortisone naturally and therefore you can't cope with the stress levels of sickness, diarrhea, viruses etc.

There is also a condition called hypopituitarism. That's when you don't produce some hormones. It is a very scary thing to deal with and some of the traumas my son has had to go through have been scary and he is only three, but

when he is in good health he is just a normal little boy getting up to no good. Panhypopituitarism can also cause septic optic hypoplasia, where the optic nerve is really thin, causing visual impairment. Again, my son also has this condition and has to wear glasses to help him see. I hope this was useful to everyone.
Post 4

@jmc88 - I know that the pituitary gland secretes different kind of growth hormones. I'm not sure if human growth hormone is an exact replica of something produced by the gland, but I'm sure it is similar.

I'm pretty sure humans aren't used to create HGH. It is made in a lab. I am not a doctor, though, so I'm not sure if the same type of HGH that has gotten attention in sports could be used to combat the problem, but I'm sure what they use is close.

I would be more interested in the side effects of being given growth hormones to combat panhypopituitarism, since nothing can exactly replicate the body's normal processes.

Post 3

The article mentions that panhypopituitarism can be caused by cancer in adults. Does it have to come from a pituitary gland tumor, or are there other types of tumors and cancers that can spread through the body and cause the effects of the disease?

If you get a pituitary tumor, how is it diagnosed? Are there any warning signs, and is it usually fatal? I know the pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain, so I guess physically removing the tumor would be almost impossible, and chemotherapy would probably be dangerous, too. Would there be any additional problems besides those mentioned here that would pop up if someone lost their pituitary gland?

Post 2

@kentuckycat - I wonder how common this disease is. I also know of a person I went to school with who had it, and I also had a distant cousin with pituitary problems. Like you mentioned, both of them are still shorter than most people, but they are able to live normal lives.

I can't be positive if the person I went to school with was this problem exactly. Does anyone know if there are other problems people can develop that make them not grow as fast as they should? Are they all pituitary related?

What types of medications are given to people with panhypopituitarism? Is the pituitary gland the place were human growth hormone (or the hormone HGH is derived from) is produce? I know human growth hormone side effects can be pretty devastating, at least when they are used improperly. Is this one of the possible treatments?

Post 1

It seems like anything that negatively affects the pituitary or thyroid glands causes a lot of growth and development problems. I know all of the glands have their roles, but these seem to be two of the most important ones that you don't want to have problems with.

There was a person that I went to school with who I assume had panhypopituitarism. I know he had some sort of problem where he didn't grow as fast as everyone else. Eventually he started taking special medications, and now he is still shorter than most people, but he is a reasonable height.

I'm just wondering, but is there something called hypopituitarism? If I remember my roots correctly, hypo means lower, and of course the rest of the word would refer to the pituitary gland. I'm not sure what the root of the prefix "pan" means, but I'm guessing that it adds something to the meaning.

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