Everything You Need to Know About Pituitary Disorder

Even though your pituitary gland is the size of a pea, it’s the “master control gland” that affects the growth and functions of all the other glands in your body. When your pituitary gland works as it should, your glands function optimally. However, when you have a pituitary disorder, you may experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms. 

Here at Hayes Endocrine and Diabetes Center in Nashville, Tennessee, experienced endocrinologist Andrea Hayes, MD, discusses everything you need to know about pituitary disorders. If you suffer from unexplained symptoms, Dr. Hayes can evaluate your concerns and provide the expert treatment you need to feel like yourself again. 

Pituitary tumors are the most common cause of pituitary disorders

Pituitary tumors are also known as adenomas. More than 99% of pituitary adenomas are benign, meaning they’re not cancerous. There are two types of pituitary adenomas: nonfunctional and functional. 

Nonfunctional pituitary tumors

Tiny, nonfunctional pituitary tumors, about 2-3 millimeters in size, occur in roughly 10% of people. These tumors don’t usually cause problems, but if they grow larger, you may experience symptoms like headaches or vision problems. 

Functional pituitary tumors

Functional pituitary tumors cause hormonal issues, including acromegaly, prolactinomas, and Cushing’s disease — three of the most common pituitary disorders. 

Signs and symptoms of acromegaly 

Normally, your pituitary gland produces a growth hormone (GH) to stimulate growth during childhood. This growth hormone also plays a role in maintaining muscles and bones during adulthood. And, it affects how fat is distributed in your body. Too much GH in children causes a rare condition called gigantism. 

Acromegaly in adults and children is a rare but serious condition. It occurs when the pituitary gland releases too much GH into the bloodstream. Acromegaly mainly affects middle-aged men and women. A benign tumor in your pituitary gland produces too much GH and causes symptoms like:

You may also experience numbness or burning sensations in your hands and feet, high blood sugar levels, and high blood pressure. It’s also common to have sleep apnea and a feeling of being tired throughout the day. Women with acromegaly may experience menstrual disorders, low sex drive, and fatigue. 

Acromegaly requires care by an expert endocrinologist like Dr. Hayes. She diagnoses your condition and prescribes effective treatments, which may include a combination of surgery, radiation, and medications. 

Signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease is a pituitary adenoma that produces an excess amount of a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH stimulates cortisol production, but when you have Cushing’s disease, a pituitary tumor produces too much cortisol. Cushing’s disease may also occur if you experience excess growth in your pituitary gland — a condition known as hyperplasia. 

Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include:

Cushing’s disease is uncommon, and mostly affects people ages 20-50, and women more than men. Dr. Hayes diagnoses Cushing’s disease through hormone testing and possibly an MRI to determine the location of the pituitary tumor. Treatment often includes surgery, radiation, and medications. 

Signs and symptoms of prolactinomas

Another benign tumor of the pituitary gland is called a prolactinoma. This occurs when your pituitary gland produces too much prolactin, a hormone that affects many different hormones in your body. It’s also the hormone responsible for breast milk production during and after pregnancy. 

When a tumor in the pituitary gland releases excessive amounts of prolactin into your bloodstream — a condition called hyperprolactinemia — you may experience any of the following symptoms:

If Dr. Hayes diagnoses your functioning pituitary tumor as a prolactinoma, she can prescribe medications that return prolactin levels to normal and relieve symptoms. Radiation therapy and surgery are also treatment options when medication isn’t sufficient. 

Don’t ignore the signs of a pituitary disorder

Pituitary disorders can lead to a variety of hormonal imbalances and unpleasant symptoms. If you experience headaches, mood swings, loss of sleep, or sexual dysfunction, it could be the result of a pituitary disorder. You owe it to your health and well-being to investigate. Detecting a problem now can save you from further health complications. 

Give our friendly team a call at 615-434-6569, or request an appointment online today. 

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