What are pituitary disorders?
The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain. The pituitary is the ‘master control gland,’ it makes hormones that affect growth and the function of other glands in the body. The most frequent type of pituitary disorder is a pituitary tumor. These tumors are fairly common in adults. These are not brain tumors and are almost always benign (not cancerous). Cancerous pituitary tumors are extremely rare.
The problems caused by pituitary tumors fall into three general categories:
- Hypersecretion: Too much of any hormone in the body is caused by a secretory pituitary tumor.
- Hyposecretion: Too little of any hormone in the body can be caused by a large pituitary tumor, which interferes with the pituitary gland’s ability to produce hormones. Hyposecretion can also result from surgery or radiation of a tumor.
- Tumor mass effects: As a pituitary tumor grows and presses against the pituitary gland or other areas in the brain, it may cause headaches, vision problems, or other health effects.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
How are pituitary disorders diagnosed?
It is common for individuals with pituitary disorders to be diagnosed and treated by an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists are specially trained physicians who diagnose diseases related to the glands. The glands in an individual’s body release hormones, and endocrinologists treat people who suffer from hormonal imbalances, typically from glands in the endocrine system. The overall goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of hormones found in an individual’s body.
Some, or all, of the following tests and procedures may be used to diagnose pituitary disorders:
- Physical exam.
- Medical history.
- Laboratory tests.
How are pituitary disorders treated?
Medication is commonly used to lower high hormone levels or to shrink the tumor. Surgery and/or radiation may also be used to shrink or remove the tumor.
Preparing for Care
What are pituitary disorder care options?
You’re likely to start by seeing your primary care provider. If your healthcare provider finds evidence of a pituitary tumor, he or she might recommend you see an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists are specially trained physicians who diagnose diseases related to the glands.
When you make the appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before having a specific test. Make a list of:
- Your symptoms: Include any symptoms that may seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment.
- Key personal information: Include major stresses or recent life changes and family medical history.
- Medications: Include vitamins or supplements you take, including doses.
- Questions: Bring a list of questions to ask your provider.