Hypopituitarism (also called pituitary insufficiency) is a rare condition in which your pituitary gland doesn't make enough of certain hormones. Hormones coming from the pituitary gland control the function of other glands in your body: thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes. Your body can't work properly when important glands, such as your thyroid gland and adrenal gland, don't get the hormones they need from your pituitary gland. Also the pituitary gland makes growth hormone that helps children grow but can also affect the well-being of adults, and anti-diuretic hormone (ADH); lack of ADH causes thirst and increased urination. Hypopituitarism can develop suddenly after surgery, injury or bleeding, or very slowly, over several months or even over several years.
Hypopituitarism can be caused by:
Sometimes, the cause is unknown.
Symptoms can include one or more of the following:
Your doctor will check your hormone levels with blood tests. You may have other tests, such as an MRI of your pituitary gland, to help find the cause of your hypopituitarism.
Treatment of the underlying cause of hypopituitarism is important. Endocrine treatment includes taking the hormones you're missing, such as thyroid hormone, cortisol, testosterone in men and estrogen in women, DDAVP (synthetic ADH) and sometime sometimes growth hormone. Many times, hormones need to be given for life. If needed, your doctor also will teach you what to do when you are sick or under stress. If a tumor is causing your hypopituitarism, you might need surgery to remove it and/or possibly radiation therapy. Sometimes, surgery to remove a tumor might help improve the pituitary gland function.
You will need to get regular check-ups. It's wise to wear medical identification, such as a bracelet or pendant, which provides information about your condition in case of an emergency.
You can expect a normal life span, as long as you regularly take the medications recommended by your doctor. However, many patients with hypopituitarism do not feel completely well even when they take the recommended hormone therapy. Your doctor will help you adjust your hormone therapy to feel as well as possible.
The Hormone Health Network is the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society dedicated to helping both patients and doctors find information on the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions.
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