Pituitary Gland Diseases
Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder in which an excessive amount of growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland after the normal growth and development of childhood and puberty has been completed. In almost all cases, acromegaly results from a noncancerous tumor on the pituitary gland. In rare instances, acromegaly is caused by a tumor elsewhere in the body.
Patients with acromegaly develop pronounced enlargement of the hands, feet, brows, jaws and ears. Because the condition develops gradually, it sometimes takes years to recognize and diagnose. It is a serious condition, requiring medical attention to relieve symptoms and prevent life-threatening complications.
Cushing’s disease is a disorder involving the excessive production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by the pituitary gland. It typically occurs when a tumor forms on the pituitary gland. ACTH is responsible for maintaining the body’s levels of cortisol, an important regulating hormone in the body. Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include obesity of the upper body except the arms, pronouncedly round face, acne, quick bruising, bone pain and muscle weakness.
To diagnose Cushing’s disease, your doctor will perform blood and urine tests to measure your cortisol levels. The recommended treatment is often surgery to remove the tumor from the pituitary gland. If this is unsuccessful, medication may be necessary to reduce the production of cortisol. In the most severe cases, surgery to remove the adrenal glands may be considered.
Diabetes insipidus is a rare disease that is characterized by severe thirst and extremely frequent urination. This condition is unrelated to diabetes mellitus, the common form of diabetes that involves insulin deficiency or resistance, but the two conditions share many of the same signs and symptoms. In addition to the increased thirst and urination, younger patients with diabetes insipidus may also experience fever, vomiting, dry skin and delayed growth.
Hyperprolactinemia is a condition involving an excess of the hormone prolactin in the blood. Prolactin is secreted by the pituitary gland and it is normally found in very small quantities in men and women. It is one of the hormones responsible for breast development in girls and milk production after childbirth, so levels of prolactin typically only rise during pregnancy.
Hyperprolactinemia may initiate interruptions in the menstrual cycle, stimulate the production of breast milk in non-pregnant women and men, diminish the libido and cause impotence and infertility. Hyperprolactinemia can result from pituitary tumors, hypothyroidism, consumption of certain foods, medications, irritation or injury to the chest and a number of other causes. This condition is diagnosed through blood tests. In most cases, hyperprolactinemia is treated with medication to moderate prolactin levels.
Hypopituitarism is a disorder in which the pituitary gland does not produce an adequate supply of one or more hormones. The pituitary gland, considered the "master gland" of hormone production, links brain activity with hormone production to help maintain the function of organs throughout the body.
The pituitary gland is responsible for the production of numerous hormones, so the effects of hypopituitarism are different depending on which hormone is lacking. Hypopituitarism is diagnosed through blood tests measuring various hormone levels and MRI or CT scan imaging of the pituitary gland. Treatment generally includes hormone therapy to replenish the missing hormones. When hypopituitarism is the result of a tumor, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor.
A pituitary adenoma is a tumor that develops on the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain. Since the pituitary gland regulates all other glands within the body, an adenoma may affect hormone production. Pituitary adenomas are almost always noncancerous, but usually require careful treatment to ensure proper pituitary gland function.
Some common symptoms of pituitary adenoma include headache, vision loss, seizures, nausea, low blood pressure, weakness and changes in weight. These may vary based on the hormones affected.
Surgery is the main form of treatment for pituitary adenomas. It involves removing the entire tumor either through the nose or the top of the skull, depending on its size and location. Regular monitoring may be all that is needed for adenomas that are not growing or causing any symptoms.
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