The pituitary gland is found at the base of the brain. It produces several important hormones that control the production of other hormones made by glands in the body. In panhypopituitarism, the gland produces an insufficient amount of hormones.
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This condition is most often caused by damage to the gland. In adults, it is usually a result of pituitary surgery.
In children, damage to the pituitary gland may be caused by: InfectionStrokeGenetic factorsTumor
on or near the pituitary gland
Cancer that has spreadInjuryNo known cause
These risk factors increase your chance of developing panhypopituitarism. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Damage to the pituitary gland (eg,
radiation, cancer spread,
on the pituitary gland
Compression of the tumor on local structures, especially the nerves of the eyes, can cause: Blurred visionLoss of visual fieldPoor temperature control
Insufficient levels of gonadotropins
In premenopausal women: missed menstrual cycles,
, vaginal dryness, loss or reduction in female characteristics
, reduced size of testes, decreased production of sperm,
, breast enlargement, reduced muscle mass, loss or reduction in male characteristics (eg, beard growth)
Insufficient levels of growth hormone
In children: stunted growth or dwarfism
In adults: weakness,
, reduced cardiac output, low blood sugar levels, and reduced exercise tolerance
Insufficient levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones
can lead to:
, which causes confusion, hair loss, weakness, slow heart rate, muscle stiffness, intolerance to cold,
, weight gain, and dry skin
Insufficient corticotrophic levels
can lead to:
Underactive adrenal gland, which causes low blood pressure,
low blood sugar
, fatigue, weight loss, vomiting, and low stress tolerance—This can be life-threatening.
Excessive prolactin levels
In women: missed periods, infertility, and milk secretionIn men: reduced facial and body hair, small testesInsufficient antidiuretic hormone (rare) can cause: Excessive thirst and frequent urinationNight-time urination
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include the following: MRI scan
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body
Blood tests—Blood tests—to measure pituitary, as well as target gland hormone levelsStimulation tests—to test the maximum capacity of the endocrine glands, usually of the pituitary glandSemen analysis—in males suspected of infertility
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. The goal of treatment is to restore normal blood hormone levels of thyroid, adrenal, estrogen or testosterone, and sometimes growth hormone.
Treatment options include: Hormone replacement therapy—based on what types of hormones are missingTumor removal—done if the cause of the damage is a tumorRadiation therapy
—done if the cause of the damage is a cancer or tumor
The majority of causes are not preventable. Injury prevention can prevent some cases.
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Randeva HS, Schoebel J, Byrne J, et al. Classical pituitary apoplexy: clinical features, management and outcome.
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Schneider HJ, Aimaretti G, Kreitschmann-Andermahr I, et al. Hypopituitarism.
Toogood AA, Stewart PM. Hypopituitarism: clinical features, diagnosis, and management.
Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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